On Dec. 7, a Tu-204 cargo plane caught fire while taking off from the Russian city of Ulan-Ude in Buryatia – the latest in a series of incidents which points to Western sanctions taking their toll on Russia’s aviation industry.

According to the Head of the Republic of Buryatia, Alexei Tsydenov, an engine of a TU-204 cargo plane, belonging to the Aviastar-TU airline, caught fire upon take-off from Baikal airport. The plane then landed without casualties.

According to the Russian Telegram channel Baza, the plane was set to fly from Ulan-Ude to the Chinese city of Zhangzhou. However, a few minutes after takeoff, the plane's left engine caught fire.

The pilots first reported the situation to airport control and dumped fuel, after which they initiated an immediate descent. All airport services were put on alert and the plane is understood to have landed without anyone suffering injuries.

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Videos and photos of the burning plane in the sky have been posted online.

Following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the West imposed large-scale sanctions on the Russian aviation industry. These have limited the Kremlin's ability to maintain high-tech developments, including aircraft. This has led to many apparent aviation incidents that Moscow has been trying to play down.

On Dec. 2, at around 1 p.m., an Aeroflot Airbus A321 flying from St. Petersburg to Moscow requested an emergency landing at Sheremetyevo Airport. The decision was made due to a left engine failure. The landing was reportedly carried out with 162 passengers on board.

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On the same day, a Yamal airlines “Superjet 100” landed at the Roschino airport in the Russian city of Tyumen due to technical problems. There were more than 70 passengers on board, in addition to the crew. The passengers were subsequently flown to their final destination, Ufa, on the airline's backup aircraft.

It is also reported that, on Dec. 2, S7 Airlines announced a reduction in its flight program to several destinations. The carrier explained this in terms of “seasonal redistribution of aircraft and schedule optimization.”

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On Nov 23, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry (HUR) published classified documents pointing to an aviation collapse in Russia. An acute shortage of spare parts has reportedly led to so-called “aviation cannibalism” in Russia, whereby some aircraft are dismantled to repair others. According to the available data, by mid-2023, more than 35 percent of aircraft in Russia were “donated.”

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