Are EU-Russia tensions in the Belarus conflict escalating further? Moscow apparently does not approve alternative routes for EU airlines to fly around Belarus.
Vienna/Paris (dpa) – EU-based airlines should avoid airspace over Belarus – Russia doesn’t seem to allow some airlines to use alternative routes to Moscow.
Both the Austrian company Austrian Airlines and the French Air France have had to cancel flights to the Russian capital, according to media reports on Thursday. Austria’s APA news agency reported that a scheduled flight from Vienna to Moscow scheduled for Thursday had to be canceled because Russian authorities had not authorized it to fly around Belarus. For this reason, Air France flights from Paris to Moscow had previously been cancelled.
EU foreign affairs representative Josep Borrell said on Friday on the sidelines of a meeting of EU defense ministers in Lisbon that he was not yet sure whether these were individual decisions or a general new regulation by the Russian authorities to to force European planes to fly over Belarus. Some planes couldn’t land and some couldn’t take off. You need to see the situation before taking action.
When asked whether there was a threat of further escalation of tensions between the EU and Russia, Borrell said: “There is always a risk of escalation.”
In response to the emergency landing of a passenger plane and the arrest of government critic Roman Protassevich in Minsk on Sunday, the European Union imposed a new package of sanctions on Belarus on Tuesday. In addition, EU-based airlines were asked to avoid the airspace over Belarus.
According to AFP, the French pilots’ union SNPL has confirmed that changes to flight schedules for flights between France and Russia must be requested from the Russian authorities. While answers to these types of questions are normally accepted immediately, there has been radio silence for the past two days. Due to the lack of permission to fly over Russian airspace, flights should have been cancelled.
The Austrian Foreign Ministry informed the APA: “The Russian reaction is absolutely incomprehensible to us.” In a statement, it said Russia is being urged not to “artifically impede free air traffic between Russia and Europe”.
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