Russian officials hoping to attend the Farnborough International Air Show were effectively barred as the were not able to obtain visas after the UK Government refused to let them have them.  The move by the UK Government was made as a retaliation to the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian province of Crimea.  As a result the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitry Rogozin, has ordered the entire Russian delegation to stay at home. 

The Daily Telegraph had previously reported that only 5 out of 75 of the Russian delegation were granted visas to attend.  Amongst those affected were also Russian space journalists and members of the Russian space agency, Roscosmos.

Comment by David Todd: Cunningly, the UK government waited until its two small satellites Techdemosat 1 and Ukube had been successfully launched by a Russian Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat M launch vehicle before making public the news of the debarment.  Other nations such as Canada and Latvia were a little more upfront in their protest. They had previously withdrawn their satellites from this launch in protest of Russian Government’s illegal annexation of the Crimea. 

Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat M lifts off with its seven payloads on 8 July 2014.  Courtesy: Roscosmos

Soyuz 2-1b/Fregat M lifts off with its seven payloads on 8 July 2014. Courtesy: Roscosmos

The move was surprising as, in truth, apart from restrictions aimed at Putin’s close colleagues, the UK has yet to impose very serious trade sanctions against Russia.  Thus, unless this move is a forerunner to such action, it makes no sense to ban Russian aerospace trade representatives in this way.  

As it is, the visa ban itself may be counterproductive in other ways.  We can expect the same treatment from Russia for UK citizens and journalists trying to get into their air shows.  Likewise UK and ESA astronaut, Tim Peake, may not now get his Soyuz ride to the International Space Station.

Similarly, in trying to get back at Putin’s government, the UK government may also be hitting the wrong people, including Russia’s well-travelled aerospace journalists.  They are an educated and intelligent bunch not generally enthralled by the Putin regime, most especially because they cannot always print what they want to – or else risk being mysteriously defenestrated whether voluntarily or not. 

Update on 18 July 2014: Since the main body of this piece was written, a Malaysian Airlines civil passenger-carrying Boeing 777 aircraft with 298 passengers and crew has crashed and been destroyed in the disputed region of East Ukraine after allegedly being shot down at high altitude by a radar-guided missile.  The missile is believed to have been a “Buk” class missile (NATO designation: SA-11) of Russian manufacture.  US Intelligence sources have reported to the media that their systems (probably ELINT and Earth Warning satellites) detected both the missile guidance radar being turned on, and the thermal signature of the subsequent missile launch.