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Russian airlines consider Turkish relocation to avoid sanctions

Some Russian airlines are weighing setting up Turkish-based carriers to get around the sanctions that have prevented them from leasing aircraft and accessing maintenance and repair facilities following the invasion of Ukraine.

Pegas Touristik, which owns Nordwind Airlines, and Anex Tourism Group, which operates Azur Air, are considering basing new airlines in Turkey and have had discussions with leasing companies about getting planes, according to people familiar with the matter.

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Unlike state-owned Aeroflot PJSC, which flew to some 56 countries before the invasion of Ukraine, Azur Air and Nordwind mainly ferry Russian holiday-goers to tourist destinations.

While based in Russia, both are part of larger tour companies controlled by Turkish businessmen. The carriers haven’t been individually sanctioned, so the moves wouldn’t violate the rules, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private matters.

European Union sanctions forced leasing companies, mainly based in Ireland, to terminate leases on planes to airlines in Russia and barred the carriers from flying in European airspace.

The airlines in turn have refused to return planes to lessors after the Russian government, determined to maintain the country’s air links, forced them to seek permission before handing back aircraft.

Anex may base a new unit in Antalya, the main hub for Turkey’s southern coast, with a fleet of Boeing Co. narrow- and wide-body jets, one of the people said.

The group is in discussions with several lessors including Dubai Aerospace Enterprise and Aviation Capital Group, as well as AerCap Holdings and Boeing Capital Corp., according to that person.

Representatives for Azur Air and Nordwind didn’t respond to emails or phone calls seeking comment.

The Turkish office of Anex didn’t respond to an email, while an Anex official in Moscow said the Russian office couldn’t comment on the actions of the parent company. Pegas wasn’t immediately available to comment.

DAE, Boeing and AerCap declined to comment. Aviation Capital Group didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.

Pegas may launch an airline called Southwind, the people said, adding that the new carriers could be up and running this summer.

Anex is also considering using an existing carrier’s license to start operations, and has been in discussions with charter airline Tailwind, one of the people said. Pegas is also considering Armenia as a location to base a new airline, a person said.

Before the Russian invasion, Azur Air had a fleet of 34 Boeing planes, according to data from tracking website planespotters.net. Nordwind had 28 planes, including Airbus SE and Boeing jets.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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