EXCLUSIVE | The mystery jet, the former Russian first lady and a blonde VIP

News 24 – 11 July 2022

  • A private jet registered in the name of Svetlana Medvedeva, wife of former prime minister and president of Russia Dmitry Medvedev, landed in Cape Town.
  • However, the operators of the Bombardier Global 5000’s return flight were denied fuel by suppliers in Cape Town and were diverted to Lanseria.
  • The purpose of the flight remains a secret, but eyewitnesses spotted a contingent of bodyguards and an entourage accompanying a stately older woman with blonde hair.

Mystery surrounds a two-day trip in Cape Town by a business jet registered in the name of Svetlana Medvedeva, the wife of former prime minister and president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev.

News24 can reveal the Bombardier Global 5000 private jet had to divert its return flight from Cape Town International Airport on Wednesday to Lanseria International Airport outside of Johannesburg because its operators were denied fuel by suppliers in Cape Town.

Medvedeva is a Russian economist, but it is not known who was on board the flight operated by Russian air charter company RusJet. The purpose of the flight that arrived in Cape Town on Monday last week and departed again on Wednesday remains a secret.

The route of the Bombardier Global 5000 private jet. (Screen grab via Flightradar24)

According to Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) operations manager Terence Delomaney, “we do not have any scheduled Russian aircraft flying into our airports at the moment. Lanseria is not an Acsa airport. All aircraft will need to ensure arrangements are made in advance for fuelling. There are various suppliers available – some may apply sanctions and others not”.

As a commercial airport, Lanseria buys its own fuel and then sells it forward to all aircraft operators using the airport.

International oil and fuel companies might apply the same sanctions in their countries of origin instituted against Russia, which have affected flights from Russia internationally. The same applies to the European and US airspace, which is closed for Russian air traffic.

According to the website www.airport-data.com, the private jet is registered in Svetlana Medvedeva’s name.

RusJet is a Russian VIP charter company based in Moscow. According to eyewitnesses at Lanseria, it was obvious there was a very important person or people on board, judged by the contingent of bodyguards and the entourage accompanying a stately older woman with blonde hair.

They said there were 14 passengers who disembarked at Lanseria: the older woman; what seemed to be a private assistant; another two women who looked after her needs; and four security guards, while the rest were men in business suits who entered the aircraft just behind the older woman when they got back into the plane.

The entourage was rushed into the VIP lounge, with the security guards posted outside while the jet was refuelled.

It was obviously just a fuel stop before the jet departed late Wednesday afternoon again. According to Flightradar24, the jet arrived in Cape Town on Monday via Cairo in Egypt. It followed the same route back, re-routing through Botswana.

The route of the Bombardier Global 5000 private jet. (Screen grab via Flightradar24)

According to Africa Intelligence, up to March, the aircraft had been registered in the state of San Marino and is part of Skyline Aviation’s fleet.

According to an investigation by the Italian daily Corriere della Sera, “Skyline is a charter company based in the small Alpine republic, with strong ties to the Russian elite and currently in liquidation. Its aircraft – including the one seen in South Africa – regularly flew former Russian prime minister and president Dmitry Medvedev’s wife, Svetlana Medvedeva. 

“Skyline has been under US sanctions since 2 June due to its links with Russia,” the publication reported.

It’s unclear if the passenger(s) were in South Africa for government or private business.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Naledi Pandor was in Indonesia attending a two-day G20 meeting of foreign ministers.

Vincent Magwenya, spokesperson for the presidency, referred enquiries to Pandor’s department, which did not respond.

The Russian embassy in Pretoria said it had no information regarding the flight.

The Moscow Times in 2019 reported that “Medvedeva secretly owns a $50 million Bombardier small business jet that she uses to fly to Europe and Russian cities”. The claims were made by Alexei Navalny, opposition leader who survived a poisoning attempt in 2020 and has been imprisoned since January 2021.

Navalny claimed Medvedeva undertook 11 trips to various destinations from 2015 to 2019 with the jet which was paid for by the Russian government. She was described as a socialite who appeared on various best-dressed lists prior to becoming Russia’s first lady in 2008. She completed her studies as an economist but gave up her career when she married her husband.

Medvedev made headlines last week when he invoked the possibility of nuclear war if the International Criminal Court moves to punish Moscow for alleged crimes in Ukraine.

Medvedev was President Vladimir Putin’s stand-in president between 2008 and 2012 and now serves as deputy head of the Security Council of Russia.

Russian former president Dmitry Medvedev (L) and first wife Svetlana Medvedeva arrive at the Phipps Conservatory for the G-20 Summit on September 24, 2009 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)

The question remains of what urgent business the aircraft’s passengers were in Cape Town for, for them to undertake a long and tedious flight to avoid the European skies Russian aircraft are currently banned from.

Sources in the oil industry told News24 the most logical explanation would be that it involved Russia’s attempts to find buyers for its crude oil, which it currently has in abundance, but can’t sell due to international sanctions.

In recent weeks various news reports speculated that South Africa has massive crude storage tanks at its facility in Saldanha which Russia might eye as a possible storing space for its crude. At least two oil tanker ships from Russia were recently suspected to call at Saldanha, but when their presence came under the spotlight, the ships both headed around South Africa towards the United Arab Emirates.

Another source says there are also discussions underway to source Russian fuel via China or India. With South Africa part of the BRICS government, it can freely trade with both Russia, China and India, especially with the fuel crunch the country is currently facing.

www.samigration.com

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