Moscow Domodedovo, Russia's leading airport

25th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Moscow's Domodedovo airport, the target of the deadly blast by a suicide bomber, is Russia's largest airport and a modern facility that for many foreigners represents their first encounter with the country.

It is also the only privately controlled airport, rebuilt from an ageing Soviet relic to a bustling hub since 1997, when it went under new management of the East Line group.

In 2010, the airport's passenger volume was a record 22.25 million people and was serving 77 airlines, including giants British Airways and Lufthansa, which made a surprise switch from state-controlled Sheremetyevo in 2008, which has been criticized by Russia's aviation authorities.

The airport has a history of disasters, and last came under fire in December after it went through a major power outage with thousands of tourists stranded in the midst of their holiday travel.

In August 2004, two Chechen suicide bombers boarded planes in Domodedovo after purchasing tickets without producing identification and bribing their way through passport control.

The planes exploded in mid-air and went down three minutes apart, killing a total of 93 people. The act of terror was claimed by Chechen militant Shamil Basayev.

Following the attack the airport invested into new security equipment, installing full-body scanners. Few officials were held responsible for the attack however, with two low-level airport employees jailed for negligence and bribery.

One of the concerns regarding Domodedovo's operations is a murky ownership structure which involves a string of offshore firms and individuals believed to be only the nominal legal owners.

The actual main owners and decision-makers are believed to be two Russian businessmen Dmitry Kamenschik and Valery Kogan.

Domodedovo has been a longtime rival of Sheremetyevo, the state-owned airport north of Moscow, and both have lobbied the government over the past year to construct a new landing strip in order to continue expansion.

Domodedovo is located about 22 kilometers (14 miles) southwest of the capital.

By Russian laws, the airport operator does not control runways which are constructed by the state.

For several years Domodedovo airport was a subject of litigation between its owner East Line and the Russian state, which argued that the airport was privatized illegally and demanded a return of a large part of the property.

But in 2008 the arbitration court decided not to take the airport from East Line.

© 2011 AFP

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