Belarusian airline abandons flights amid EU freeze

One view shows an information board while checking in for a Belavia Belarusian Airlines flight to Minsk, the last before Ukraine stops air travel with Belarus following the arrest of the dissident journalist Roman Protasevich, at Boryspil International Airport outside of Kiev, Ukraine May 25 January 2021. REUTERS / Valentyn Ogirenko

Belarusian national carrier Belavia on Thursday canceled flights to eight countries as more EU states enforced airspace restrictions in response to a jet crash landing in Minsk.

The tightening of restrictions on Belarus came when its main ally, Russia, denied access to a second European carrier seeking to bypass Belarus on its way to Moscow.

Belavia announced the cancellations “due to flight bans from a number of countries,” after neighboring Poland joined a growing list of territories that prevented it from flying over them, rendering more routes unsustainable.

“We regret that our passengers have to face this situation for reasons beyond the control of the airline,” Belavia said, cutting flights to Amsterdam, Barcelona, ​​Berlin, Brussels, Frankfurt, Hanover, Kaliningrad, Milan, Munich , Rome, Vienna and Warsaw until October 30.

The European Union has urged its airlines to avoid Belarus and has decided to close its own airspace to Belarusian carriers amid outrage over Sunday’s interception of a Ryanair (RYA.I) plane en route to Lithuania from Greece and by the arrest of a dissident journalist on board. Read more

Belavia has previously said it was banned from destinations in Britain, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and Ukraine, most of which have also banned it from their airspace. . Its neighbor, Poland, joined the list on Wednesday.

Belavia flights were still crossing Italy and Hungary on Thursday and serving EU destinations including Larnaca in Cyprus and Tallinn in Estonia, according to data from FlightRadar24.

Cypriot officials have said they are awaiting official guidance from the EU on implementing the bans, and Estonia has signaled imminent action.

“Belavia flights will not be accepted at Estonian airports, official decision later today,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas tweeted. “The Belarusian government must take responsibility for its actions.”

RUSSIAN TENSIONS

Fallout from the Belarus stalemate has heightened tensions with Russia, whose vast airspace is difficult to avoid for flights between Europe and much of Asia.

Moscow has so far refrained from any heavy intervention as the main ally of President Alexander Lukashenko.

But on Thursday, Russia denied clearance of an Austrian Airlines Vienna-Moscow flight plan avoiding Belarus – a day after failing to approve a revised Paris-Moscow route from Air France (AIRF.PA). Both flights were canceled.

“A change in flight routes must be approved by the authorities,” said a spokesperson for Austrian Airlines (LHAG.DE) belonging to Lufthansa. “The Russian authorities did not give us this permit.”

Air France canceled a second Paris-Moscow flight scheduled for Friday after Russia failed to respond to another flight plan submission, the airline said.

The Russian Civil Aviation Agency declined to comment.

Other Air France-KLM and Lufthansa flights continue to cross Russian airspace and serve destinations within the country unimpeded, the two airline groups said. Lufthansa successfully rerouted Frankfurt-Moscow flights around Belarus.

France, which was among the first countries to ban Belavia, on Wednesday refused its 2869 flight to Barcelona, ​​forcing a return to Minsk. Read more

“This is a European diplomatic issue at ministerial level,” said a spokesperson for the French civil aviation department of the DGAC, declining to comment.

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