European countries block airspace to Russian flights, seek EU-wide ban

Growing list of nations, including some Scandinavians, Italy, Germany, France and Poland, essentially blocking flights to West, as Russia takes reciprocal action

An Aeroflot Airbus A330 plane taxies out at Sheremetyevo airport, Moscow, on June 24, 2013. (AP/Sergei Ivanov)
An Aeroflot Airbus A330 plane taxies out at Sheremetyevo airport, Moscow, on June 24, 2013. (AP/Sergei Ivanov)

European countries are closing their airspace to Russian flights and urging others to follow suit, ramping up pressure on President Vladimir Putin by seeking to isolate Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine.

European Union members Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, Finland, Malta, Poland, Romania, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Sweden, and Denmark have all closed their airspace to Russian flights or announced they would do so.

The United Kingdom and Iceland, which are not part of the EU, have also banned flights from Russian airlines in support of Ukraine. North Macedonia’s government also banned all Russian aircraft from its skies, but said humanitarian flights will be exempted.

Russia has responded by closing its own airspace to flights operated by carriers from countries that announced bans.

Finland shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia, the longest in the EU. Its flag carrier, Finnair, specializes in flights between Europe and Asia that fly over Russia, but its services are currently limited because of Asian entry restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

More countries are expected to announce flight bans soon, the BBC reported.

Some countries have banned all planes registered in Russia from traversing their airspace and some have taken action only against Aeroflot, Moscow’s flagship carrier.

There is no EU-wide ban, but several nations have called for the bloc to take united action against Russian flights as the West looks to ratchet up sanctions on Moscow over the assault on its neighbor.

France’s transportation minister, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, called Sunday for “rapid European coordination on this issue.” Later Sunday, Djebbari tweeted: “To the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Europe responds with total unity.”

A protester holds a banner that reads, ‘French state, close the airspace over Ukraine,’ during a rally against Russia’s military operation in Ukraine during a rally at ‘place de la république’ in Rennes, western France on February 26, 2022. (DAMIEN MEYER / AFP)

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said on Twitter his country would pursue a ban at a meeting of EU ministers Sunday.

Sweden’s Minister of EU Affairs Hans Dahlgren said a Europe-wide ban would be the most efficient.

“We want it to be done as soon as possible, and the best and fastest way would be that it be done at European level,” he told the TT news agency.

In the US, Delta Air Lines has suspended its codesharing partnership with Aeroflot.

“We have removed our code from Aeroflot-operated services beyond Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport and removed Aeroflot’s code from Delta-operated services from Los Angeles and New York-JFK. Accommodations will be made for customers affected by these changes,” Delta said in a statement Saturday, adding that it does not operate flights to Ukraine or Russia.

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