Russia accuses US of pressuring Turkish Airlines to deny Russians flights to Mexico

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Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov has accused the United States of exerting pressure on Turkey’s national airline to bar Russian citizens from flights bound to Mexico.

His comments came after Moscow’s embassy in Ankara this week complained that some Russian airline passengers were being indiscriminately denied boarding while transiting on Turkish Airlines flights from Istanbul to some Latin American countries.

“Specifically in relation to Mexico, the reason, I think, is easy to guess,” Ryabkov was quoted late on Wednesday as saying by the TASS state news agency. “It lies in the pressure that is exerted on the authorities of this country by Washington.”

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He did not provide evidence for the accusation.

Two industry sources told Reuters they believed Turkish Airlines was acting at the behest of the US in an effort to stem immigration flows of Russians to its southern border.

“Turkish Airlines was somehow pressured or persuaded or intimidated to be so strict,” said Artur Muradyan, vice president for international tourism at the Russian Association of Tour Operators, an industry group.

“I think they are under pressure from the US to do this.”

A second source, who requested anonymity, said: “(Turkish Airlines) think people are flying (to Latin America) to cross the border into the US.” Most of the Russians denied boarding were flying to Mexico, the source added.

The US State Department did not immediately reply to Reuters request for comment. Turkey’s foreign ministry and Turkish Airlines were not immediately available for comment.

Exodus

At least 73,000 Russians have tried to enter the US via official southern border crossings in the past two years, Customs and Border Protection data show, part of a historic exodus of people since the war in Ukraine began in February 2022.

The sources told Reuters that as many as 1,000 Russian travelers had been refused boarding to flights leaving Istanbul Airport for a slew of destinations in Latin America over the past 2-3 months.

Russia’s embassy in Ankara spoke out against the practice in several statements this week, but did not specify when the practice began or how many passengers had been denied flights.

The embassy said airline employees barring passengers cited restrictions imposed by their destination countries, including a valid hotel confirmation or proof of a return ticket.

When contacted by Reuters for comment, the Russian embassy said it had nothing to add beyond its published comments.

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