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AirCargoGlobal, the Slovakian-registered carrier, has signed a contract to operate two 747-400Fs on behalf of Belarusian carrier TransAVIAexport Airlines, according to media reports.

ACG, the newly formed incarnation of Air Cargo Germany, has yet to start operations and has just one 747-400 in its fleet. A source told The Loadstar, however, that it expected to receive another next month.

It is as yet unclear whether TransAVIAexport will take the full capacity of both aircraft. One source who has worked with TransAVIA said he thought that would be a “huge stretch” for the state-owned airline.

According to CH Aviation, it made heavy losses in 2013 and so planned to diversify its business.

TransAVIA has a fleet of ageing Il-76s, which it has used for commercial charters and humanitarian aid between Europe and Africa. It has wanted to move into more mainstream commercial operations for some time, said the source.

As part of the Russian Customs Union, Belarus is in a good position to be a transhipment point for imports into Russia. The carrier had planned to fly humanitarian aid into Africa, and fly back with flowers for the Russian market. ACG, however, is offering flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong.

TransAVIAexport could be well-positioned to avoid trade sanctions affecting the relationship between European companies and Russia.

“It can hub in Minsk, and then use road into Russia,” said the source, adding that the domestic Russian market could be “lucrative”.

“Everything is centralised in Moscow – which is not efficient, but the Customs control there drives domestic value.”

While the airline could perhaps benefit – or not suffer – from the sanctions, Belarus itself is thought to be a country most at risk. As of July 1, Belarus’s public debt stood at $13.4bn.

The country received a $2bn bridge loan from Russia’s VTB bank – now named in western sanctions – which was expected to be followed by a loan from the Russian government. Its main trading partner is Russia.

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