The General Court of the European Union has ruled that the EU’s restrictive measures against Russia, initiated due to the annexation of Crimea and actions in eastern Ukraine, and intensified following the 2022 attack on Ukraine, do not extend to Russian citizens holding private pilot licenses from flying within the EU. The sanctions specifically prohibit Russian-registered aircraft and those controlled by Russian entities from operating in EU airspace. However, an interpretation by the European Commission and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) suggested that Russian nationals could also be barred from piloting planes privately, based on the premise that they control the aircraft’s operations.

This interpretation was challenged by a dual Russian and Luxembourg national, who is a licensed private pilot in Luxembourg. The General Court dismissed the challenge but clarified that the sanctions target the economic and financial control over aircraft, not the operational control by individual pilots. This distinction underscores that the measures aim to exert pressure on the Russian government rather than impose broad restrictions on Russian nationals’ private activities within the EU.

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