Kremlin to add two Airbus jets to fleet: officials

4th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

The Kremlin is to acquire two Airbus planes, an uprecedented move by an administration that has traditionally limited its fleet to Russian-made jets as a matter of national honour, officials said Thursday.

Viktor Kozhin, head of the Kremlin property department, said the government would take delivery of two mid-range Airbus jets and two Italian-made Agusta helicopters later this year as some of the current planes in the fleet are too old to fly and the domestic aircraft industry cannot keep up with demand.

"You simply cannot fly on some of the planes anymore," Kozhin said.

"We are in favour of domestic aircraft. But it's a great pity that as of today our aviation industry cannot cope with the tasks we set before them."

Viktor Khrekov, a spokesman for the Kremlin property department, told AFP that it was "the first time" that a foreign-made mid-range jet had been added to the fleet.

Last year the Kremlin propery department bought two smaller, multi-purpose Falcon jets, Khrekov said. President Dmitry Medvedev used one of them to fly to the disputed Kuril Islands last November, Kremlin officials have said.

Besides Medvedev, eight other top officials including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have a right to use the state aircraft fleet, consisting of Tupolev and Ilyushin planes.

A Kremlin official, speaking on condition of anonymity, could not immediately say whether Medvedev himself would fly on the Airbus planes.

"We fly on the Russian planes," he said.

Using Russian-made aircraft, especially during foreign visits, remains a matter of national pride for the Kremlin.

Kozhin said the Augusta helicopters were chosen with an eye to start producing them in Russia.

© 2011 AFP

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