What after Russia loses seat at ICAO council?


Accused of breaching the rules of the Chicago Convention on international aviation, Russia lost its seat among the primary members of the ICAO council. 

A vote was held during the 41st session of ICAO's assembly of 193 nations held in Montreal, Canada, on October 1, 2022. Russia failed to collect six of the 86 votes to keep its seat at the council. 

Ahead of the vote, several council members of the UN agency, including the European Union and Canada, had called for Russia to be sanctioned after it contravened the Convention on International Civil Aviation with the invasion of Ukraine.

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Among the faults cited are the violation of Ukraine's sovereign airspace and the destruction of civil aviation infrastructures such as airports. 

Signed in 1944, the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, which established the ICAO, declares in its first article that “every state has complete and exclusive sovereignty over airspace above its territory.” 

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The commandeering of airliners, mainly Airbus and Boeing aircraft, leased by foreign companies to Russian airlines was also cited as a reason to sanction Russia. 

"We'd like to express regret regarding the outcome of the voting," the Russian representative said following the decision of the assembly. "We view this as a purely political step and has nothing to do with Russia's position in the field of civil aviation." 

What does it mean for international aviation? 

The council regroups 36 members elected for a three-year term. Russia was previously among the nations qualified as “states of chief importance in air transport”. 

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The country may still have a council seat, only at a lesser rank. On September 4, 2022, a vote will select countries “whose designation will ensure that all major geographic areas of the world are represented on the Council.” 

The ICAO council is one of the two governing bodies of the UN agency with the assembly. When necessary, council members are called upon to make decisions to maintain the safety and regularity of international air transport. Russia’s seat on the council was instrumental in the decision not to sanction Belarus following the hijacking of Ryanair flight FR4978 in 2021.

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