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Europe, Canada close their airspace to Russian airplanes

AP – Europe and Canada said on Sunday they would close their airspace to Russian airlines after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, raising the pressure on the United States (US) to do the same.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the European Union (EU) would shut down its airspace for planes owned, registered or controlled by Russians, “including the private jets of oligarchs”.

Canada’s Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said his nation was closing its airspace to all Russian planes to hold the country accountable for an unprovoked attack on its neighbour.

The EU action came after many of its member countries had said they were barring Russian planes or planned to do so. Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo tweeted that European skies are “open for those who connect people, not for those who seek to brutally aggress.”

A handful of European nations including Spain, Greece and Turkey had resisted closing their airspace before von der Leyen’s announcement. An aviation consultant in New York Robert Mann said the moves by the EU and Canada would put added pressure on the US to also bar Russian flights. “It is difficult to understand why we are last to move, both operationally and financially,” he said.

Transport Canada later said that an Aeroflot flight violated the prohibition and that it would “not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action and other measures to prevent future violations”. The department said Canadian officials “mistakenly permitted a banned aircraft into Canadian airspace. This shouldn’t have happened”.

As more airlines cancelled flights in and out of Russia, and more countries blocked Russian airlines, the US embassy in Moscow said Americans there “should consider departing Russia immediately via commercial options still available”.

Russia has responded to western aviation sanctions by banning flights from several European countries. Russian airline S7 suspended flights to Europe.

On Sunday afternoon US time, a Moscow-New York flight by Russian national carrier Aeroflot turned back after passing over Norway, according to flight-tracking services. The plane had been routed to fly over Canada. Other Aeroflot flights took circuitous routes after European countries began closing their airspace.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. PHOTO: AP