Russian interest in Frankfurt Hahn airport sparks criticism

AFP - [email protected]
Russian interest in Frankfurt Hahn airport sparks criticism
The Frankfurt Hahn airport, as pictured in January 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Frey

A Russian investor's interest in an insolvent German airport created uproar, as Russian business dealings in Europe's biggest economy face heightened scrutiny due to the Ukraine war.


The German region of Hesse, a minor shareholder in the airport, was "very critical" of the potential sale, a spokesman for its finance ministry told AFP.

Two offers are on the table for Frankfurt Hahn airport after it went under at the end of 2021, in the wake of widespread travel disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The bidders are German real estate group Richter and NR Holding, which owns the nearby Nuerburgring race track and is backed by the Russian oligarch Viktor Kharitonin.

The pharma billionaire is however not among the Russian businessmen on the European Union sanctions list in response to the invasion of Ukraine.

Hesse was calling on the federal government to "explore all their options to prevent this sale", the spokesman said. 


As a shareholder, the region however had "no significant" influence on the final decision, he added.

The airport's creditors met Tuesday to discuss the offers, but insolvency administrator Jan Markus Plathner told reporters afterwards that no contract had yet been approved.

While Frankfurt Hahn shares a name with the German financial capital, it is not the city's main airport.

Almost 90 kilometres (55 miles) to the west of Frankfurt, it serves mostly as a hub for cargo and low-cost airlines.

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The Chinese HNA Airport Group bought a majority stake in the airport in 2017.

Opposition politicians have also called on the German economy ministry to block the sale of the airport to Kharitonin's group.

Stopping the sale would avoid "damage to Germany's foreign and economic policy", MP Sebastian Brehm from the CSU party said Monday.

Around 1.5 million passengers passed through Frankfurt Hahn in 2019, before the pandemic brought air travel to a halt.



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