"Upon an order from the president (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad), the Road and Transport Ministry has set a two-month deadline, upon the expiry of which all Russian pilots will have to leave the country..." Transport Minister Hamid Behbahani was quoted as saying.
One of the main reasons behind the decision was explained to be that, “Iran already possesses plenty of professional and specialist pilots, henceforth there is no need to bring pilots from abroad”.
Another reason was told to be the poor safety records of Russian-made aircraft with Russian pilots, which is not completely untrue. Russian commercial aircraft are famous with their bad safety records, and the string of crashes in the last decade involving Russian aircraft in Iran only, furthers this fame.
The safety records of the Russian pilots and airplanes might seem as a legitimate reason enough, but more people seem to think that the decision has more to do with politics than it has with safety.
Iran officials aren't really secretive about their frustration with the Russian government's continuous delays supplying Iran with the advanced S-300 missile defense system. The timing between Russia saying the S-300 will hit further delays and that it will back further sanctions on Iran (regarding the nuclear program), and Iran giving Russian pilots two months to leave the country, only reinforces theses claims.
Although the retaliation may seem rather “small” and ineffective, it is a proof that Iran is taking a more aggressive action against Russia, their biggest trading partner because of the sanctions on Iran.
It is not known how many Russians are working as pilots for Iranian carriers.
This aviation article was submitted by resident aviation news editor Yigit A. Coskun with additional credits to source: Reuters.