AiRUnion Passengers Stranded

Hundreds of passengers were stranded around the country Tuesday due to delayed AiRUnion flights, as airports keep planes grounded because of the company's outstanding debt.

The alliance of five regional airlines, which together comprise 12 percent of the domestic market, has been struggling with debt from rising costs for jet fuel.

Airports in Krasnodar, Anapa and Sochi are refusing to fuel AiRUnion planes unless the company prepays in full, while some passengers have been forced to wait for up to five days, Channel One television reported. In Novosibirsk alone, 400 people are awaiting flights. The company has debts of 1 billion rubles ($41.3 million), RIA-Novosti reported.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called on Russian Technologies — which is set to take over the government stakes of three of the alliance's carriers — to direct attention to solving the problem. "It is clear that the state should get involved in this process," Putin said in Uzbekistan.

On Putin's orders, the Federal Reserves Agency announced last week that it would provide AiRUnion with 24,000 tons of fuel in the period from August 26 to Sept. 14 under a guarantee from Russian Technologies.

The agency's fuel has failed to solve the problem in some isolated regions, however. Planes flying out of Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, on Sakhalin Island, cannot refuel because the nearest cities with fuel reserves are Vladivostok and Krasnoyarsk, regional officials said Tuesday.