Nordavia, the air company which until now has served the civilian population at the archipelago, has been banned from flying to the islands, resulting in more than hundred people being stranded in Arkhangelsk without opportunities to get back home.
According to Russian Air Traffic Agency (Rosaviatsia), only military aircrafts are from now on allowed to fly to Novaya Zemlya. The agency announced the new regulations in July and they subsequently came into effect on 1 August, regional authorities in Arkhangelsk inform.
Rosaviatsia argues that the stranded passengers, all of them non-military people, are the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence, while the ministry says it only handles military personnel.
Meanwhile, the regional government in Arkhangelsk is requesting the Ministry to Defence to help resolve the situation, and Rosaviatsia to prolong the former air traffic regime.
“The regional government is highly worried about the situation”, Deputy Governor Aleksey Alsufyev says in a press release.
The Novaya Zemlya has about 2900 inhabitants, most of them living in the administrative center of Belushya Guba. The town is served by the Rogachevo airport.
The Arctic archipelago is one of the most militarized and closed areas in Russia. The area was used for nuclear weapons testing from the mid-50ies to 1990. Nuclear weapons researchers are still using the area for sub-critical nuclear weapon tests.
Industrial interests still look at opportunities to establish facilities on the islands, first of all in connection with offshore oil and gas activities in the area.