All flights by civil aircraft have been restricted inside Ukraine due to a “potential hazard”, according to a notice to airmen from authorities.
As of 3:15 UTC time on Thursday, Ukraine airspace was “completely empty”, according to tracking site Flightradar24 after airlines scrambled to find alternate routes to dodge the war-torn nation.
24 February 2022 03:15 UTC time – Ukraine airspace is now completely empty. pic.twitter.com/UIEgcapqlj
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) February 24, 2022
The NOTAM was issued at 0156 GMT on Thursday, and is set to expire at 2359 GMT, with no further notice.
Flights are restricted within cities of Ukraine such as Kyiv, Dnipro, Lviv, Odesa, Simferopol FIR, Kyiv UIR, according to the notice.
Ukraine’s State Enterprise of Air Traffic Services said the “provision of air traffic services to civilian users of the airspace of Ukraine is suspended”, due to the “high risk” zone.
The move came immediately after Russia issued a ban on civilian air traffic over eastern Ukraine, including also closing down several airports amid the rising fears of invasion.
“The situation in Ukraine has now become a larger conflict that is currently developing,” said Safe Airspace on Thursday.
The website provides conflict zone and risk database warnings, birthed from the Malaysian Airlines MH17 aircraft disaster when operators had not been sufficiently warned.
“Regardless of the actual movements of Russian forces into Ukraine, the level of tension and uncertainty in Ukraine is now extreme,” the website stated.
“This itself gives rise to significant risk to civil aviation. For this reason, and based on OPSGROUP member discussions, we assess Ukraine as Level 1 – Do Not Fly.”
On Wednesday, the US Federal Aviation Administration banned all US operators from overflying the eastern part of Dnipro, among other states which have enforced similar prohibitions, but Safe Airspace believes this will change soon.
Following the ban, an Israeli El Al Boeing 787 Dreamliner coming from Tel Aviv to Toronto was forced to turn out of Ukrainian airspace before detouring over Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, according to the tracking site.
One aircraft was spotted still over Ukraine, a US RQ-4B Global Hawk surveillance plane for NATO, but it has since moved to Romanian airspace now, allegedly returning to its home base in Italy.
According to the latest update, Russia’s RIA newspaper said that President Vladmir Putin authorised a special military operation in Ukraine’s Donbas region, and there have been several reports since of explosions.
The potential for war is a long time coming as Putin has resisted Ukraine’s ties with European institutions, including NATO and the EU, and has claimed the nation was not a real state.
Nations from across the globe, including the US, UK, Australia and others have condemned Russia’s actions, pledging to defend Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has made an emotional appeal towards Russia to not start a war but says his invitation for talks with Putin have been ignored.
Since 2014, when Russia first invaded the country and infiltrated regions with rebels, their relations have continued to dwindle, and the war has claimed over 14,000 lives so far.