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Infrastructure: Domodedovo airport – a cautionary tale?

Moscow’s state-of-the-art Domodedovo airport is a shining example of a highly successful infrastructure project in Russia, which has won plaudits from airlines and passengers alike. But it’s also at the centre of a tussle between a government agency and its private sector owners, that highlights the fact that infrastructure development in Russia is not without significant political and financial risk.

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Little more than a decade ago, Domodedovo was faced with the real prospect of closure after safety officials condemned it as dangerously outdated.

But after privatization and a reported $1 billion-plus investment by new owner East Line, the airport is now the most popular gateway into Moscow, outstripping Sheremetyevo as the country’s busiest airport. It is now firmly established as the airport of choice for foreign carriers and regularly services more than 100,000 passengers a day.

But what should be a showpiece for a country looking to attract billions of dollars of private capital to help upgrade its creaking infrastructure has been making all the wrong headlines because of a long-running dispute between East Line and the Federal Property Management Agency.

In a double-headed assault, the FPMA is seeking to renationalize airport property that East Line owns and is disputing the legality of the company’s lease agreement with the state for the use of the runways. East Line has successfully fought off a series of legal challenges from the FPMA in recent years but the authority’s dogged attempts to seize back control of the airport are casting a shadow over plans for a new terminal needed to cope with rising demand.

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