Here we go again in the latest tit-for-tat escalation following the May 23rd forced diversion of the Ryanair flight carrying anti-Lukashenko activist and journalist Roman Pratasevich by Belarus, who was subsequently arrested when the plane landed in Minsk: Russia and Germany have just denied each others’ airlines permission for incoming flights.
AFP is confirming that “Germany has blocked flights operated by Russian airlines from arriving in its territory in tit-for-tat action after Moscow failed to provide authorizations for Lufthansa, the transport ministry said Wednesday, amid tensions over Belarus.”
Days ago Moscow had begun blocking European carriers which were actively avoiding Belarusian airspace, also as Russia’s former Soviet satellite state ally was targeted for expanded EU sanctions, including an imminent expected blacklisting of national carrier Belavia.
The Biden administration is also said to be drawing up a list of targeted sanctions, but for now it’s looking like a new Cold War over the skies of Europe is playing out, potentially severely disrupting popular international travel and transit routes and leading to a worsened diplomatic standoff.
Germany’s transport ministry said on Wednesday that it had denied three Russian Aeroflot flights access to its airspace and another four on Wednesday in response to prior Lufthansa flight cancelations that were the direct result of Russian policy:
“Due to the reciprocal practice, the Federal Aviation Authority also did not issue any further permits for flights operated by Russian airlines as long as authorizations are pending on the Russian side,” it added.
….”Once permits for Lufthansa flights are granted by the Russian site, the flights of Russian airlines will also be authorized,” added the German ministry.
Recall too that Air France flights had been impacted by lack of Russian flight path approval as early as a week ago after broad EU-wide avoidance of Belarusian airspace. The Kremlin had tried to downplay it at the time as vaguely based on “technical” reasons.
As the below comment from an Atlantic Council pundit reveals, the May 23 Ryanair incident is increasingly being blamed on Putin’s Russia, given his longtime support for the Belarusian strongman…
#Germany does not exclude #Russia‘s involvement in the Ryanair incident.This was stated by the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Bundestag,Norbert Röttgen. #Putin has been supporting #Lukashenko for years,it is partly because of Russia that Lukashenko is still in power pic.twitter.com/We6zYwkTvC— Hanna Liubakova (@HannaLiubakova) May 26, 2021
Further upping the ante, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg weighed in on Wednesday saying more punitive actions are on the table my the Western military alliance over what was widely condemned as Lukashenko’s authorized “state hijacking” of the Ryanair flight last month.
“I think the most important thing now is to make sure that those sanctions that are agreed are fully implemented,” he said in what’s looking to be a major coordinated sanctions avalanche involving the US, EU, and UK. “It has to be clear that when a regime like the regime in Minsk behaves in the way they did, violating basic international norms and rules, we will impose costs on them.”