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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Protesters Blast Use of Foreign Jets

About 1,000 employees of Aeroflot airlines and Russian airplane-manufacturing firms picketed government headquarters Thursday to protest the leasing of foreign rather than domestically made planes.

"Boeing, fly away! Airbus, fly away too!" read the slogan on some of the signs carried by picketers.

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, the department official responsible for overseeing civil aviation, came out of the government building and addressed the protesters with a bullhorn.

He told them that the Cabinet would approve a leasing plan on March 15 and that 20 Tu-204, Tu-214 and Il-96 planes were expected to be leased to Russian airlines this year, according to Interfax.

He said the government would assume the risk on leasing operations, providing 85 percent guarantees, Interfax said.

On Wednesday, the State Duma asked Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov to take steps to protect domestic aircraft producers from competition by foreign firms. The letter to Kasyanov, adopted overwhelmingly by deputies, asked him to investigate deals such as one between Aeroflot and Airbus Industrie.

"Such actions by [Aeroflot’s] managers — and also the government of the Russian Federation, as it holds a controlling interest in the company — could bring about the destruction of Russia’s aviation industry," the letter said.

Duma deputies said that Aeroflot head Valery Okulov had signed a protocol with Airbus to acquire A320s while on a visit to Paris in December, but the deal has not been confirmed.

The Duma asked Kasyanov to explain the logic of allowing such agreements, which it said could cost the jobs of hundreds of thousands of Russians.

(AP, Reuters)