Photo Credit: Karam Sodhi/AviationSource

Ukraine Crisis: Malaysia Hopes For Direct Moscow-Kuala Lumpur Flights Despite Conflict

LONDON – When Russia invaded the filo-Russian Ukrainian regions of Donbas and Luhansk on the 24th of February 2022, the world was completely shocked.

However, governments worldwide did not think twice and imposed heavy sanctions on Russia and hit where it would hurt most, its economy. 

Moreover, around the same time sanctions were being imposed, another war trend started, blocking air spaces to Russian Registered aircraft.

The United Kingdom was the first to stop off the airspace and was quickly followed by other European countries.

Few countries remain open to Russian-registered aircraft, Serbia being the only one left in Europe. However, another difficulty is presented for Russian Airliners.

The ability to fly to ‘open’ countries without crossing the airspaces of those who have closed them. 

Recently, Spain expelled twenty-five Russian diplomats.

The aircraft had to take a longer-than-usual detour to avoid all the airspaces making the flight time over 6 hours to get to the diplomat’s home. 

Opportunities on the horizon?


However, as the rest of the world finds ways to isolate Russia further, others see opportunities in times of despair. 

Sputnik, Russia’s state-owned news outlet, recently interviewed Malaysia’s ambassador to Russia, Datuk Balan Chandran; the ambassador revealed that he hopes to see direct flights between either Saint Petersburg or Moscow and the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur.

Or, in what seemed a hopeful comment, both. 

“The issue of direct flights is on the agenda. As an ambassador, I really hope that Aeroflot will soon be able to open direct flights to Kuala Lumpur,” the ambassador said. 

Chandran points out the strong cultural and economic ties that the two countries have developed.

The ambassador is keen on selling semiconductors and electronics to Russia if the request is made.

The ambassador, a keen supporter of maintaining diplomatic relations between the two countries, adds:

“The Malaysian industry is market-oriented, and I am absolutely sure that any request from the Russian party concerning such products will be considered,”

The ambassador predicts a shortage of electronics in Russia after Taiwan, the biggest exporter of semiconductors and electronics has joined the sanctions and terminated exports to Russia.

The ambassador defined the invasion as a ‘military operation’. 

Analysis


Malaysia, or so the ambassador says, is keen on welcoming Russian Tourists into the country. However, little data demonstrate the viability of such a route. 

Malay-Russian diplomatic relations have always been hit and miss.

The first relations were established in 1967 when the first Russian students moved to Malaysia to study culture and language at the University of Malay.

However, the diplomatic ties have had weak points throughout the cold war due to Malaysia’s position on the Vietnam war and the suppression of three communist uprisings in the South-eastern Asian country.

Moreover, in the ’80s, relations weakened when Malaysia supported the unification of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, a Soviet satellite country. 

In modern Malaysia, diplomatic relations between the two countries appear stable. The market between the two countries is valued at 2.2billion US dollars.

According to the Malaysian Embassy in Moscow website, the Malaysian diaspora living in the Russian Federation is less than 1000 people, of which 873 are students.

Moreover, the market between the two countries is valued at 2.2billion US dollars, which could provide high cargo capacity. 

The latest data indicating the influx of Russian Tourism in the Southeast Asian Country is from 2012 and suggests that only 40,000 tourists visited the country that year.

 Therefore, at the moment of writing, data does not support the opening of the new route. However, given the current times in which the two countries are living in, and the lack of countries welcoming Russian Citizens, this route may have a shot at success.

Moreover, despite the ambassador’s enthusiasm, Aeroflot has not commented or shown interest.

This lack of interest could arise from two potential reasons; The route may not be financially feasible amid the risk of repossession of Aeroflot’s aircraft if flown internationally. 

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