As Russia increasingly looks to China to help alleviate the crushing weight of unprecedented sanctions brought about by Ukraine’s invasion, Beijing seems to be slowly distancing itself from the near collapsed Russian economy.
Now the Kremlin has said that Beijing is refusing to supply Russian airlines with aircraft parts after Boeing and Airbus both halted supply components to Russia. An official at Russia’s aviation authority told Russian news agencies on March 10 that if the situation continues, the safety of Russian passenger flights would soon be under threat.
Agencies including Interfax quoted Valery Kudinov, a Rosaviatsia official responsible for maintaining airplane airworthiness, as saying that Russia would look for opportunities to source parts from countries such as Turkey and India after a failed attempt to obtain them from China.
Kudinov added that Russian companies would begin registering their planes, many of which had been registered abroad, in Russia and that he expects some others to be returned to leasing companies in other countries.
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Russian airlines in desperate need of a bailout
Separately, a draft law published on March 10 showed that Moscow plans to order domestic airlines to pay for leased aircraft in rubles and could bar them from returning planes to foreign companies if those leases are canceled.
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Since the invasion began on Feb. 24, the Russian ruble has plunged more than 40 percent and hit an all-time low of 0.0075 against the dollar, effectively rendering Russia’s currency useless.
Russian stocks have also seen massive sell-offs and the Moscow stock exchange has remained closed since March 2 as authorities looked to stem the bleeding in local asset prices and have increased interest rates by over 20 percent in hopes of encouraging the public to leave their cash in Russian banks.
Punishing sanctions announced by the U.S. and European Union targeted the National Wealth Fund of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation. On March 1, U.S. President Joe Biden announced that Russian flights would be banned from U.S. airspace, following similar decisions by the EU and Canada.
Key Russian banks have also been barred from the SWIFT international payments system, (which stands for Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication,) preventing them from accessing secure international communication and ostracizing them from most of the world’s financial system.
In addition, a growing number of Western corporations across all industries, such as Visa, Mastercard, McDonalds, Netflix, BMW, Ford, and Starbucks have since pulled out of the Russian market as they join in on punishing Moscow for Ukraine’s invasion.
China toeing careful diplomatic line
Meanwhile, China has still refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, opting instead to call it a “special military operation,” despite more and more pressure from the international community for Beijing to address its Russian counterpart.
Beijing has vowed to “continue normal trade relations” with Russia despite most European and American firms deciding to cut their losses and exit the tanking Russian economy. Gas giants BP Plc, Shell Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. took the energy industry by surprise when they walked away from Russian assets worth billions of dollars days after the invasion began.
China has also seen a recent surge in stock buying as amateur retail investors rally to buy “Sino-Russian trade concept stocks” as they bet on Beijing boosting trade with Russia in an effort to help stimulate both economies and help extend a vital lifeline to Russia during this time. Stocks with even the slightest link to Russian trade are being snatched up at unseen rates, according to financial analysts.
More than 2 million Ukrainians have since fled the country due to the war, which has killed thousands of soldiers on both sides. Most of the refugees have gone to nearby Poland even as Russia imposes “humanitarian corridors” urging Ukrainians to evacuate to either Russia or Belarus, which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has claimed as “unacceptable.”
According to data from the United Nations, there had been 549 civilian deaths and 957 injuries in Ukraine as of March 10, although it believes the real total to be considerably higher. Of those killed, 26 have been confirmed to have been children.