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Belavia condemns sanctions as Russia allows airlines to reroute through its airspace

written by Hannah Dowling | May 31, 2021

Belavia and Air Lease Corporation signed a deal for four Boeing 737 MAX jets in July 2018 (Belavia)

The director of Belarus’ national carrier, Belavia, has condemned European leaders over their decision to impose airspace sanctions on the carrier, following last week’s ‘hijacking’ of a Ryanair flight by Belarusian authorities.

The European Union, along with the UK, have closed their airspaces to Belarusian carriers, most heavily impacting the country’s state-owned international commercial carrier, Belavia.

The EU and UK have also both encouraged airlines not to fly through Belarusian airspace, as nations sanction the country due to its decision to unlawfully land the Ryanair flight in Minsk, in order to detain a wanted political journalist who was onboard.

Most recently, neighbouring country Poland actively closed its airspace to Belarus, making it extremely difficult for Belavia to perform any of its short-haul international routes.

On Saturday, Belavia director Igor Tcherginets coined the decision by European leaders as “despicable”, after the carrier was forced to dramatically shrink its network to adhere to these newly-imposed restrictions.

“It is evident that these governments planned not only to close their countries for landing by our airplanes, but also, with an especially fascist perversity, they are closing air corridors one by one. They are mocking us,” Tcherginets wrote on Facebook.

Tcherginets argued that European governments should not have imposed restrictions that appear to only impact Belavia, particularly as international investigations by the UN’s International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) have yet to commence.


“All this is happening before an investigation of the incident, for which there may be some guilty parties, but Belavia is definitely not among them,” he said.

“They punish innocent Belavia, without even beginning an investigation. It’s despicable.”

Simultaneously, Russia, one of Belarus’ largest allies, has provided major European airlines Air France and Lufthansa with special approvals to transit through additional Russian airspace for flights to Russian destinations, in order to avoid Belarusian airspace, after initially denying such permits.

Air France, which operates up to two flights per day between Paris and Moscow, announced over the weekend that Russia had formally approved its revised flight plans to transit through additional Russian airspace, after Russian authorities initially denied the revision, resulting in Air France being forced to cancel two flights to Moscow.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for German flag-carrier Lufthansa said it too had been given formal approval by Russia for its revised flight plans on routes from Frankfurt to Moscow and St Petersburg for the foreseeable future.

Lufthansa currently operates seven return flights from Frankfurt to Moscow and three return flights from Frankfurt to St Petersburg per week.

Reports suggest that Belarusian authorities flagged a false bomb threat onboard Ryanair flight 4978 bound for Lithuania last week, and sent a fighter jet to instead escort the plane to Minsk in order to detain a journalist who opposed the Belarusian government.

The plane, carrying around 170 people from 12 countries, was just minutes away from crossing into Lithuanian airspace when it was suddenly diverted to the Belarusian capital, escorted by a Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jet.

Upon landing, authorities took journalist Roman Protasevich into custody.

The move was heavily criticised by nations and industry bodies, and has been labelled by many as a “hijacking” or “act of piracy”.


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