The European Union has decided this Sunday that it will close its airspace to Russian airlines, in retaliation for the invasion of Ukraine launched last Thursday by President Vladimir Putin and after most member states, including Spain, they would have already announced in cascade that they would veto the flights of Russian aircraft. In addition to the twenty-seven, Five other countries have adopted the same decision – the United Kingdom, Norway, Iceland, Canada and Albania.while Moscow has responded, for the time being, by banning flights over its territory from planes from three of the first countries to implement the measure: Poland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.
The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyenhas proposed the closure of the airspace within the framework of a new package of sanctions against Russia that includes vetoing the broadcasts of Russia Today and Sputnik on community territory, as well as new sanctions on Belarus for its collaboration in the attack on Ukraine. “I want to be very clear. Our airspace will be closed to all Russian planes.”he has stated.
A few hours before Von der Leyen announced his proposal, Spain had already joined the air veto: “Spain will proceed to close the airspace to Russian airlines”, announced the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda in the early afternoon, without specifying when the measure will come into force, although ministry sources estimate that it will be in question of hours
“Following the cooperation guidelines set by the European Union, this measure will have effects on flights operated by Russian airlines that use Spanish airspace,” added the statement from the Executive chaired by Pedro Sánchez.
Total, 32 countries have closed their airspace to Russian planes, in addition to Ukraine, which, in the midst of a warlike conflict with Russia, maintains de facto flights prohibited. The first were Slovenia, the United Kingdom, Poland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, although the rest have subsequently been added in a cascade.
“In the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the unity of Europe is total,” proclaimed this Sunday the Secretary of State for Transport of France, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, in a message posted on Twitter . “Our European spaces are open spaces. They are open for those who connect people with each other, not for those who intend to brutally attack them,” said Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo.
Very significant has been the incorporation into the common initiative, without even waiting for it to be a jointly agreed measure within the European Union, of Austriaa neutral country that is not a member of NATO. “We have always said very clearly: we will respond consistently and decisively to the Russian invasion. The closure of the airspace is an important part of this response”, indicated the Austrian Minister for Mobility, Energy and Climate Protection, Leonore Gewessler.
The European Union had already prohibited since last spring commercial flights from Belarusan ally of Russia, after an Irish airline Ryanair flight covering the Athens-Vilnius route was diverted to the Belarusian capital, Minsk, in order to arrest a dissident journalist who was traveling on board.
Russia responds with closure for Bulgarian, Polish and Czech airlines
For its part, Russia closed this Saturday the airspace for the airlines of Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic, according to the Federal Air Transport Agency, Rosaviatsia.
“In connection with the hostile decisions of the aviation authorities of Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic, as of February 26, 2022 from 15:00 Moscow time, the air carriers of these states or those registered in they are subject to restrictions on flights to Russian territory, including transit flights through the airspace of the Russian Federation.”
“Flights from these countries can be made with a special permit issued by the Federal Air Transport Agency or the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” Rosaviatsia added.
On Friday, Russia took the same measure with respect to British airlines. As a consequence of the sanctions of the Government of the United Kingdom, the Russian airline Aeroflot suspended all flights to London and Dublin until May 23.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.