TORONTO, ONTARIO — An Antonov AN-124 cargo aircraft that carried COVID-19 test kits to Canada has been grounded at Toronto’s Pearson Airport as part of the international sanctions imposed on Russia after the invasion of Ukraine.

The aircraft, which is owned by Russia's Volga-Dnepr, has been grounded after flight bans imposed on the Russian Federation by the Western countries. The sanctions disrupted across the world both passenger and cargo flights.

Most of the European countries, Canada, and the United States have issued executive orders saying they are closing their airspace to planes owned and operated by Russian companies.

The orders affect several Antonov An-124s, a cargo plane known for its unique carrying capabilities since it went into production in the 1980s-era Soviet Union.

Fewer than 60 Antonovs were ever made, and less than half are still in use. Distinctive for their expansive, nose-loading cargo bays, they can carry more than 150 tonnes of cargo.

Most of the operational AN-124s are owned and operated by the Russian cargo giant Volga-Dnepr Group, which is based in Ulyanovsk, Russia.

The Volga-Dnepr Antonov that landed in Toronto early on Sunday was ferrying supplies ordered by the Canadian government.

“Public Services and Procurement Canada can confirm there were federally purchased rapid antigen tests on board,”

departmental spokesperson Michele LaRose said.

It landed at 7 a.m. Later that morning, Transportation Minister Omar Alghabra announced Canadian skies were off-limits to Russia.

On Feb. 27, Canada closed its airspace to all Russian-owned and operated aircraft. The measure came into effect immediately.
Volga Dnepr Airlines operated a series of charters in the interest of the Canadian government delivering vital COVID-19 related products from China during the pandemic.

Ukraine-based Antonov operators are continuing to fly other Antonov cargo jets. However, its iconic flagship – an Antonov An-225 known as Mriya – was destroyed last week during Russia's airstrikes.

“The biggest plane in the world ‘Mriya’ (The Dream) was destroyed by Russian occupants. We will rebuild the plane,”

the Ukrainian government tweeted on the weekend.