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The Russian diplomats expelled from the US are on their way back to Moscow, and you can track their journey back home. They’re heading back to Moscow in none other than the last long-haul civilian plane designed in the Soviet Union, an Ilyushin 96-300. The plane is no longer used in commercial service anywhere except Cuba, but it remains a stalwart of Russia’s government fleet. President Vladimir Putin himself uses one. It’s known as an exceptionally safe aircraft, never suffering an accident in decades of service.
The Russian aircraft bears registration RA-96023, identifying it as one of the very last Il-96s built, just two years old. Coming from Moscow’s Vnukovo airport (VKO), it landed at Washington’s Dulles Airport (IAD) Friday at 10:29am ET. By Friday afternoon, U-Haul trucks could be seen bringing the diplomats’ belongings airside to be loaded on board for the 4,880-mile journey back.
Its time of departure is not yet known. But when it does take off, you can track the flight on FlightRadar24. The aircraft’s journey to IAD took just less than 11 hours — 10 hours and 54 minutes before landing.
The history of RA-96023 shows that the Russian government gets good use out of it. Its flight history on Flightradar24 is an interesting window into geopolitical developments and the news of the day: before flying to Washington, the aircraft made trips to both Ankara, Turkey (ESB) and Kemerovo, Russia (KEJ). The latter flight was presumably to ferry government officials to the scene of a shopping mall fire in Siberia that killed 64.
RA-96023 seems also to be the preferred way of getting expelled Russian diplomats back to the motherland. FlightRadar24 history shows that on March 20, the aircraft made the 1,522-mile journey from VKO to London Stansted (STN), with a same-day turnaround. Sure enough, the trip was to pick up the expelled Russian diplomats from London who left town on the same day, part of a coordinated campaign of expulsions by Western countries in the wake of the nerve-agent poisoning of a turncoat Russian spy in Salisbury. The British government accuses Russia of having orchestrated it.
None of the flight-tracking sites we checked show the departure time for RA-96023 on its trip back to Moscow. However, if history is any indication, the aircraft — occupied by some or all of the 60 Russian diplomats expelled by President Trump — will depart from IAD on Friday night. And when it does take off, you can track the aircraft here.
An earlier version of the story stated that the poisoning of a Russian ex-spy had happened in London, when in fact it was Salisbury, and that nerve gas was used, instead of a nerve agent. The story has been corrected.
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