You don’t often see a Russian-built jetliner touching down at Washington Dulles International Airport, but an Ilyushin Il-96-300 recently arrived on an odd mission: evacuate Russian diplomats accused of engaging in espionage from Washington and New York before returning to Moscow.
Russian Jetliner Travels To Washington, DC + New York To Evacuate Expelled Diplomats Accused Of Spying
The four-engine jet touched first touched down at Washington Dulles (IAD) on Saturday, March 5, 2022. Rossiya flight RSD88 traveled from St. Petersburg (LED) on a circuitous 12 hour, 35 minute flight to avoid European Union and Canadian airspace. While Russian aircraft are also currently banned from U.S. airspace, an exception was granted to pick up a team of expelled diplomats, as well as their families.
Why? According to United States Mission to the United Nations, the operatives “abused their privileges of residency” by engaging in espionage activity:
“The United States has informed the United Nations and the Russian Permanent Mission to the United Nations that we are beginning the process of expelling twelve intelligence operatives from the Russian Mission who have abused their privileges of residency in the United States by engaging in espionage activities that are adverse to our national security. We are taking this action in accordance with the UN Headquarters Agreement. This action has been in development for several months.”
A U.S. State Department official later confirmed that the reason for the flight:
“The U.S. government approved a flight chartered by the Russian government to facilitate the departure of Russian UN Mission personnel who were expelled for abuse of their privileges of residence. This special exception was done in accordance with federal regulations to ensure Russian mission personnel and their families departed by the date we had instructed.”
It isn’t clear why these diplomats and their families were not forced to fly commercial.
After arriving in Washington at 2:15pm on Saturday, the aircraft traveled to New York (JFK) on Sunday, departing at 2:20pm and arriving at 3:16pm. More diplomats and their families were picked up before the aircraft took off at 7:32pm for Moscow Vnukovo (VKO), where it landed earlier today at 1:39pm.
A Russian-made IL-96 jetliner traveled to Washington, DC and New York to pick up expelled diplomats accused of being spies. The aircraft was granted a special exception to enter U.S. airspace and is now back in Moscow.