Moscow ( Agence France-Presse): Russian tycoon Alexander Lebedev announced on Thursday he had sold his Moscow-based airline Red Wings for a symbolic 1 rouble (32 US cents) after it was grounded following a fatal crash of one of its Tupolev jets.
“Yes, I have signed documents on selling 100 percent of Red Wings to a group of investors for 1 rouble,” the billionaire known for his criticisms of the Kremlin wrote on his blog, without revealing the identity of the buyers.
“I did everything I could to save the company,” wrote Lebedev, who part-owns Russia’s most critical opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta and whose son Evgeny Lebedev owns Britain’s The Independent and Evening Standard newspapers.
Writing on Twitter, he said he took the decision to sell “because of the fears of the bureaucrats in charge (of the sector).”
The Russian civil aviation agency in early February suspended operations by Red Wings, citing violations and lack of financing.
The flight ban came after one of the airline’s TU-204 planes crashed on landing at Moscow’s Vnukovo airport on December 29, killing five crew members, although the civil aviation authority said it was unrelated.
An ongoing investigation has provisionally said the accident could have been caused by defective brakes or a misfiring reverse engine.
The plane was only carrying eight crew members at the time, while its capacity is 210 passengers.
The aviation authority identified numerous violations by the airline and judged that it did not have enough financial resources to properly maintain its fleet.
Lebedev protested in February that there were no grounds for the decision to stop flights by the airline, which served several Russian cities.
Red Wings has a fleet of eight TU-204 planes, a mid-range jet that was first developed in the late Soviet era.