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Politico: Russian jet that just landed in the United States is picking up spies

March 5 2022
3 min read
An Ilyushin Il-96 airliner prepares to land at Sofia Airport, Bulgaria.
Politico: Russian jet that just landed in the United States is picking up spies
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A Russian jet that has captured the imagination of skywatchers everywhere has now landed in Washington, D.C. Politico reporter Daniel Lippman was the first to report the plane is in the United States to pick up Russian spies that are being kicked out of the country.

The plane— an Ilyushin Il-96 — took off from St. Petersburg in Russia and as you can see from the flight path posted on FlightAware has now landed at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD).

Flight path of Russian Ilyushin Il-96 jet. (Screenshot courtesy FlightAware)

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It's unclear when the plane will depart the U.S. or if it will make any more stops.

Lippman spoke with me on Saturday from D.C. and said, the "State Department told me it's to pick up the expelled Russian diplomats mostly from the Russian mission to the United Nations. There's one Russian staffer who works at the U.N. they also expelled."

“The U.S. government approved a flight chartered by the Russian government to facilitate the departure of Russian UN Mission personnel who were expelled for abuse of their privileges of residence,” according to a statement given to Politico from a State Department spokesperson.

A specially modified Ilyushin Il-96 airliner prepares to land at Sofia Airport, Bulgaria. (Photo by Anton Balakchiev/Stocktrek Images via Getty)

President Joe Biden closed United States airspace to Russia in Tuesday's State of the Union address. “Tonight I am announcing that we will join our allies in closing off American airspace to all Russian flights, further isolating Russia and adding an additional squeeze on their economy,” he said.

This plane was given special permission to make the flight.

Lippman told me he thinks it was the same plane "previously used to fly Russian diplomats to Belarus for peace negotiations this week ... It's been getting a lot of use the last week ... all tied up with the conflict."

When I asked Lippman how unusual all this was, he said it reminds him of "The Americans," a popular series that aired on FX about Soviet spies living in the United States in the 1980s at the height of the Cold War.

Lippman said it was all a part of cutting Russia off from the world for its invasion of Ukraine, "and planes are a part of that."

Featured photo by Getty Images/Stocktrek Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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