Russia is Refusing Some Flights That Avoid Belarus

Several airlines have reported that Russia will not authorize flights bypassing ally Belarus’ airspace. Austrian Airlines announced on Thursday that a flight from Vienna to Moscow had to be cancelled. The Russian Ministry of Transport did not want to respond.

 

Austrian has suspended flights over Eastern European Belarus, following the advice of the European Aviation Safety Agency. “A change of flight route must be approved by the authorities. The Russian authorities refused to grant us that permission,” the Austrian airline told AFP news agency.

Air France also reported a similar incident earlier. A flight to Moscow could not take place on Wednesday because Russia refused to approve the flight plan. At the time, there did not seem to be a complete Russian blockade of aircraft avoiding Belarusian airspace. Other flights to Russian destinations could continue as usual.

KLM has announced that it has not heard of the closure of Russian airspace for airlines that avoid Belarus. The airline says that about 15 KLM flights fly over Russia every day. According to a spokeswoman, this “depends on several factors, such as the weather”.

The unrest in European airspace follows the arrest of dissident Roman Protasevich in Belarus. He was actually en route from Greece to Lithuania by plane, but the Belarusian authorities diverted his flight to Minsk. There would have been a bomb threat. Email provider Proton Technologies later announced that the email with that threat was only sent after the flight had already been diverted.

Belarus received a lot of international criticism for the arrest of Protasevich. New European sanctions are looming, and some countries are taking measures against the Belarusian airline Belavia. He says that it has been forced to stop flights to European destinations such as Amsterdam, Milan, Rome, Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna, Brussels, Barcelona and even the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

Hundreds of planes fly over Belarus every day. According to the European air traffic control agency Eurocontrol, it concerned 261 flights on Wednesday that flew to or from the area that falls under Eurocontrol. “That was 118 flights less than on the same day a week earlier.”

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