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New Moscow Airport Opens Despite Downturn In Traffic

The airport's operating company, Ramport Aero, says the new airport has a capacity of 4 million passengers per year.

Moscow's fourth international airport has opened despite a downturn in traffic caused by the economic recession and international sanctions on Russia.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on May 31 attended the opening of the Zhukovsky airport about 40 kilometers southeast of Moscow city center.

Rostec, the Russian state conglomerate that controls the airport's operating company, Ramport Aero, said the new airport has a capacity of 4 million passengers per year.

The airport will run around 20 flights per week by two passenger airlines from ex-Soviet Central Asia -- Air Kyrgyzstan and SCAT Airlines from Kazakhstan. The Kyrgyz airline's first flight will depart the airport on June 20.

It will also house two Russian freight carriers: Sky Gates Airlines and Aviastar-TU.

The airport was originally planned to reduce the buildup of passengers at the three existing airports -- Domodedovo, Sheremetyevo, and Vnukovo -- following years of strong growth in passenger traffic.

Russia has since plunged into recession, however, which along with Western sanctions over its aggressions in Ukraine and mutual curbs on air travel with Ukraine and Turkey has caused a drop in traffic.

The recession last year pushed the country's second-largest airline Transaero into bankruptcy.

Moreover, fewer passengers are taking charter flights to package-holiday destinations since a flight carrying Russian vacationers was downed last year by an explosion over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula that killed everyone on board.

In addition to those obstacles, the new airport is far less accessible than its three competitors, since it does not yet have a direct rail link into the city center, forcing travellers to drive on clogged roads.

Plans called for an expansion of the highway leading to the airport and the development of more parking lots.

Medvedev nevertheless praised the airport's opening as an important event "both for Moscow and for our country," saying it gives people more options for travel.

Two other terminals are due to be built at the Zhukovsky site by 2020, taking the capacity to 12 million passengers per year and creating more than 10,000 jobs, Rostec said.

Plans called for investing over 10 billion rubles ($152 million) into development of the airport over five years.

With reporting by AFP, Interfax, and TASS
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