The Russian government Thursday banned at least two European flights from landing in Moscow because they intended to avoid Belarusian airspace as per the European Union's advise, it was reported.
Following Monday's incident involving a Ryanair flight bound for Vilnius which was forced to land at Minsk so that two passengers onboard could be arrested for opposing Aleksander Lukashenko's regime. But in addition to journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, three other passengers -presumably Belarussian secret agents- stayed at Minsk when the flight was allowed to continue.
After that, the European Union has advised airlines to avoid Belarusian airspace as well as banned all Belarussian-flagged aircraft from landing in Europe.
In solidarity with ally Lukashenko, Moscow has not cleared to land an Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna which was going to take an alternative route to circumvent Belarusian skies.
”Austrian Airlines has suspended flights over Belarusian airspace until further notice based on the recommendation from the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). For this reason, it is also necessary to adjust the flight route from Vienna to Moscow. The change in the flight path must be approved by the authorities. Russian officials did not give their approval to us. As a result, Austrian Airlines was forced to cancel today's flight from Vienna to Moscow,” the official said responding to a request to comment on Thursday's cancellation of a morning flight from Vienna to Moscow.
On May 26, the Austrian Ministry of Transport told TASS that the EASA issued a security information bulletin in which European airlines are advised to avoid Belarusian airspace.
The other carrier banned from landing at Moscow was Air France, which was no surprise after Belarus' flag carrier Belavia's flight B2869 (an Embraer E-195) which had taken off for Barcelona was forced to return to Minsk after it was denied permission to fly over France, control tower citing direct verbal orders from the Prime Minister.
In these circumstances Belavia had to cancel flights to Warsaw, Milan, Amsterdam, Rome, Frankfurt, Berlin, Munich, Hannover, Vienna, Brussels, Barcelona and Kaliningrad until October 30, it was announced. The lifting of these routes follows the ones already announced in previous days: Riga, Stockholm, Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa, Prague, Kharkiv, London, Paris, Helsinki and Vilnius.
In total, it means for the company to cancel about 198 flights per week, impacting about 20 thousand passengers.
Belavia's current network in Europe was thus cut down to 16 destinations: Belgrade (Serbia), Budapest (Hungary), Brussels (Belgium), Moscow (Russia), Rome (Italy), Nizhni Novgorod (Russia), Istanbul, Kishinev (Moldova), Samara (Russia), Kazan (Russia), Larnaca (Cyprus), Saint Petersburg (Russia), Milan (Italy), Rostov (Russia), Tallinn (Estonia) and Zhukovsky (Russia). Belavia is also present in Georgia, Uzbekistan and Armenia.