May 26, 2022

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Ukraine closes its airspace to civilian flights amid Russian military action

Ukraine closes its airspace to civilian flights amid Russian military action
  • Risks of Intentional Targeting and Misidentification – EASA
  • Risks Associated with Flying in Border Areas – EASA
  • Russia closed some airspace to the east of Ukraine’s border

Feb 24 (Reuters) – Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian flights on Thursday, citing significant safety risks, while Europe’s aviation regulator also warned of the dangers of flying in regions bordering Russia and Belarus due to military activities.

Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine in what appeared to be the start of a war in Europe. Read more

Ukraine’s State Air Traffic Services Corporation said on its website that the country’s airspace is closed to civilian flights starting at 0045 GMT on Thursday, with air traffic services suspended.

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The European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said the airspace of Russia and Belarus within 100 nautical miles of their border with Ukraine could also pose safety risks.

“In particular, there is a risk of deliberate targeting and misidentification of civilian aircraft,” the agency said in a bulletin on the conflict zone.

“The presence and possibility of using a wide range of land and air warfare systems poses a significant risk to civilian flights operating at all altitudes and flight levels.”

The aviation industry has received increasing attention to the risks posed by conflicts to civil aviation since the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

The European Space Agency said that the Russian Defense Ministry sent an urgent message to Ukraine warning of the existence of significant risks to aviation safety, due to the use of weapons and military equipment starting at 0045 GMT, and asked the Ukrainian air traffic control to stop flights.

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Websites that showed intelligence-gathering flights over or near Ukraine where the West had shown willful support by sending out detectable signals in recent weeks showed a blank space as planes left and Ukraine was declared a conflict zone. Read more

Early morning air traffic circled the entire country in crowded corridors to the north and west.

Flight tracker FlightRadar24 showed that an El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto made a sudden U-turn in Ukrainian airspace around the time it closed.

A LOT Polish Airlines flight from Warsaw to Kiev returned to Warsaw around the same time.

Hours earlier, Safe Airspace, which was set up to provide security and conflict zone information after the MH17 was shot down, said it had raised the risk level over Ukraine in order to “not fly.”

He also warned of the possibility of a cyber attack on Ukrainian air traffic control.

Russia said on Thursday it had suspended domestic flights to and from several airports near its border with Ukraine, including Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar and Stavropol, until March 2.

A notice to the pilots showed that Russia had also closed some skies in the Rostov sector “in order to provide safety” for civil aviation flights.

Before Ukraine advised airspace restrictions, Britain, Canada, France, Italy and the United States asked their airlines to avoid certain airspace over eastern Ukraine and Crimea, but it fell short of a total ban.

German Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) It suspended flights to Ukraine from Monday, joining KLM which has already suspended flights. Read more

Last week, two Ukrainian airlines disclosed problems securing some flights while foreign airlines began avoiding the country’s airspace as Russia amassed a massive military force on its borders.

Additional reporting by Jamie Fried in Sydney and Tim Hever in Paris; Editing by Jerry Doyle and Clarence Fernandez

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.