На русском языке:
Cham Wings: Мигранты, оружие, ЧВК «Вагнер», а теперь и полёты в Минск
На беларускай мове: Cham Wings: Мігранты, зброя, ПВК «Вагнер», а цяпер і палёты ў Мінск
Since September 10, Cham Wings Airlines, a private Syrian airline, has already made 6 charter flights to MSQ. The latter arrived tonight, September 28 at 01:40. The company operates all flights to Minsk from Damascus, Syria on an Airbus A320-212 aircraft with the tail number YK-BAG. The average capacity of this aircraft is 160 people.
Cham Wings Airlines flights to MSQ
Thus, it can be estimated that in 2.5 weeks the airline could bring about 960 passengers from Arab countries to Minsk.
And for all this time, we have not received a single message that the planes are returning filled.
What is known about this airline?
Cham Wings Airlines has positioned itself as the first private airline established in Syria in 2007. In its fleet there are 3 aircraft (numbers: YK-BAG, YK-BAE, YK-BAB), all from the Airbus A320 line, and they are based at Damascus International Airport.
Cham Wings fleet at Damascus International Airport. / Photo: Cham Wings
According to their website, Cham Wings flies in 14 directions: to Arab countries, as well as to Moscow and Yerevan. The website does not say anything about the flights to Minsk.
Directions presented on the official website of Cham Wings. Minsk is not on the list.
The head of the airline is Issam Shammaut, who, according to Syrian state publications, in 2018 was an expert of the Ministry of Tourism and is close to the regime of Bashar al-Assad.
But these are all little things compared to the fact that since 2016, Cham Wings Airlines has been under U.S. sanctions.
According to information published on the website of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the airline is working closely with the Assad government. It brought militants to Syria, and was also involved in transporting weapons and equipment for the Syrian regime. Moreover, according to OFAC, the Cham Wings flight from Damascus to Dubai was one of the main routes used for money laundering throughout the region.
Flights to the Crimea and transportation of PMC "Wagner" militants
U.S. sanctions are far from their only «virtue.» Ukraine has also imposed sanctions against the company, they are completely forbidden to transit and flights over the territory of Ukraine, Kiev also blocked their assets and imposed restrictions on trade operations.
And the reason was more than weighty. Despite the ban, the company regularly operated flights to the annexed Crimea. In 2018, the publication «RCB-Ukraine» wrote that in April 2018, the Minister of Economy of Syria and other officials of the Assad government flew on this airline’s board to Simferopol airport.
Syrian officials flew to Simferopol. April, 2018. / Photo: JetClassic.
Syrians flew to the Crimea for the so-called Yalta International Economic Forum. And the flight itself was operated from Sochi. Cham Wings Airlines directly violated the ban on flights to the annexed Crimea and over the peninsula, which the State Aviation Service of Ukraine imposed in April 2014.
It has to be said that the violation of Ukrainian airspace is not the first scandal associated with the activities of the airline.
Reuters published an investigation, in which it was told that the airline secretly transported Russian mercenaries from the PMC «Wagner» from Rostov-on-Don to Syria to support the Assad regime. For 14 months, starting from January 5, 2017, the publication counted 51 flights of Cham Wings aircraft from Damascus and Latakia to Rostov and back.
Cham Wings aircraft at Rostov-on-Don airport. January 17, 2018. / Photo: REUTERS/Stringer
The Reuters article also mentions two Ukrainian airlines – Dart and Khors, which have bought or leased more than 80 used Airbus and Boeing aircraft over the past seven years. In the future, at least 40 of them were in Iraq, Iran and Syria. After that, the US Treasury Department included Dart and Khors in the ‘black list’, indicating that these airlines helped sanctioned companies from Syria and Iran buy American aircraft.
Is the transportation of migrants a common thing?
In 2018, the company actively advertised the possibility of transporting refugees from Syria to Germany and back. The fact is that even then Cham Wings did not have any permits to fly to the EU.
This was done thanks to the cooperation with another airline Mahan Air. Cham Wings brought Syrian refugees from Syria to Beirut, Lebanon, from where they flew on a Mahan Air plane to Germany, on the same principle and back.
According to the Correctiv publication, the company was even publishing videos showing the statements of passengers, where employees of Cham Wings were asking passengers at Beirut airport: «Where are you from? Were there any problems in Frankfurt?«, and the migrants answered: «No, we came from Frankfurt and Hamburg, everything went well.«
Cham Wings poster in the window of a Berlin travel agency. / Photo: Сorrectiv
In one of the videos, a passenger sitting on the board even explained how that was possible:
“You are not flying to Syria with your passport, but with a Syrian identity card. When traveling abroad with Germany, no one can see that the real destination of the trip is Syria. Stamps in the passport only show that the passenger travels between Germany and Lebanon or Iran, but Syria is not displayed,” – the passenger said in the video.
A company representative has also explained: «We have an agreement with Mahan Air. First you fly on a Mahan Air plane, then Cham Wings will take you from Tehran or Beirut to Syria.»
Thus, on the basis of all the information collected and considering that in recent months, not very well-known airlines from Arab countries periodically begin to fly to Belarus, it might be safe to assume that Cham Wings Airlines is now engaged in transporting migrants to Belarus.
In addition, knowing that it was involved in the transportation of Russian militants, as well as the fact that the Russian Federation currently has very close ties with the regime of Bashar al-Assad (there are several Russian military bases in Syria)…
This gives reason to assume that the Kremlin is well aware of who this airline transports to Belarus and it is even possible that this scheme is organized not without the participation of interested persons from the Russian Federation.