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A Russian-registered Antonov AN-124 owned by Volga-Dneper sits on the tarmac at Pearson Airport in Toronto on March 21, 2022.Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press

The Russian airline that operated the cargo plane stuck at Toronto Pearson International Airport is waging a battle in Canadian court to be dropped from the sanctions list.

Volga-Dnepr Airlines, its founder and former owner Aleksey Ivanovich Isaykin and two related airlines have applied for judicial reviews in Federal Court of their inclusions among people and companies Canada named to punish Russians after the invasion of Ukraine.

The Federal Court of Canada granted a request by Volga’s lawyer and ordered the four appeals be managed and heard by the same judge, in a process aimed at speeding up slow-moving cases. A judge was assigned to the case last week.

Canada closed its airspace to Russian planes on Feb. 27, 2022, preventing Volga’s cargo plane, an Antonov-124, from leaving the Toronto airport. The Canadian government announced the seizure of the plane last summer to press Russia to stop its war, and said it planned to give it to Ukraine.

“The seizure of this important asset is the first step of the government of Canada’s action under the asset seizure and forfeiture regime and is designed to put additional pressure on Russia to stop its illegal war against Ukraine by straining its economic system and limiting resources that fuel the war,” the government said in a June press release.

“The actions of the Russian Federation constitute a grave breach of international peace and security that has resulted in a serious international crisis,” Ottawa said in its seizure order.

Canada added Volga, Mr. Isaykin and two airlines he owns, Airtran and Airbridge Cargo, to the sanctions list in April, 2023. The parties are “complicit” with Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and linked to private military organization Wagner Group, the government said.

Anyone in Canada and Canadians abroad are forbidden from doing business with those on the list, which names more than 2,500 people and entities.

Volga filed an appeal of its inclusion on the list in November, arguing it is owned by four people not on the sanctions list. The airline describes itself as a “non-military” cargo freight company. The airline “prides itself on its humanitarian efforts, taking an active part in providing support to peacekeeping and humanitarian missions by international governmental organizations worldwide.”

The grounded plane, Volga said in its appeal, is “suffering from exposure to the elements and receiving no maintenance whatsoever.”

It is not clear how Ottawa plans to transfer the plane or its value to aid Ukraine. After sitting for so long, it would take major repairs to render the plane airworthy.

Geneviève Tremblay, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada, said the seizure is the “first step in a legal process.”

“Proceeds of forfeiture may be used for compensation to victims, the reconstruction of affected states, and the restoration of international peace and security,” she said.

Jennifer Radford, a lawyer for Volga, declined to comment. A spokesperson for Pearson airport declined to comment.

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