More Airlines Halt Belarus Overflights Following Controversial Plane Diversion
By RFE/RL May 25, 2021
More airlines have announced a suspension of their flights over Belarusian airspace after the country diverted a passenger plane to Minsk and arrested a dissident journalist.
Air France, Finnair, and Singapore Airlines were among the latest carriers to suspend flights over Belarus on May 25, a day after European Union leaders called on the bloc's aviation industry to avoid the Eastern European country's skies and moved to ban Belarusian airlines from EU airspace and airports.
The EU move came in response to the forced landing of a Ryanair flight from Athens to Vilnius by Minsk on May 23 and the detention of one of its passengers, independent Belarusian journalist and activist Raman Pratasevich -- in what Western officials denounced as "state hijacking" and "state piracy."
Also on May 25, the Ukrainian government said the country's airlines were no longer allowed to transit Belarusian airspace and that flights to and from Belarus would be banned from May 26.
"This means that it will not be possible to fly from an airport of Ukraine to an airport of Belarus and Ukrainian airlines to transit through the Belarus airspace," Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in a statement.
Air France said in a statement it had "taken note" of the conclusions of the EU summit and had suspended flights over Belarus "until further notice."
Planes already in the air will have their flight plans modified, the French carrier, which is part of Air France-KLM, said.
Its Dutch stablemate KLM stopped flying over Belarus on May 24.
Singapore Airlines said it was also rerouting flights "that are bound for Europe to avoid the Belarusian airspace" and would continue to "closely monitor the situation."
"The safety of our customers and crew is our top priority," a spokesperson told AFP.
Finnair said its decision to reroute planes affects three flights a week.
Scandinavian airline SAS, Germany's Lufthansa, and Latvian-based regional airline airBaltic made similar announcements on May 24.
Lithuania said on May 24 it wouldn't authorize any departing or arriving flights that cross Belarusian airspace.
Britain also issued instructions for British aircraft to avoid the country's airspace.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service
Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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