The Court of Justice of the European Union recently ruled that Russia-related sanctions do not apply in principle to a private pilot who uses airplanes at Luxembourg Airport. The General Court dismissed an action brought by a private pilot who is a citizen of Russia and Luxembourg and held that the prohibition only applies to those that have economic or financial control of the airplanes. The General Court determined that it was inappropriate for the restrictive measures to apply against the pilot, as well as other Russian citizens who hold private pilot licenses, because the objective of Russian sanctions is to pressure the Russian President and his government to respect Ukraine’s territorial integrity and stop violating international law.
Following Russia’s attack on Ukraine in February 2022, the Council of the EU expanded restrictive measures that were originally imposed against Russia in 2014 in response to its annexation of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and other destabilizing actions in Ukraine. The newer sanctions, among other things, prevented all Russian-registered airplanes from taking off, landing in or flying over the territory of the EU – prohibitions that also applied to non-Russian-registered airplanes owned, chartered or controlled by Russian individuals, entities or bodies. The private pilot filed the action in order to challenge the European Commission’s and European Aviation Safety Agency’s interpretation of the measure, which found that it prohibited any Russian national from flying an airplane as a private pilot because the pilot controls when and where the plane flies.