Russia Will Allow European Flights To and From Moscow to Bypass Belarus

MOSCOW (Reuters) -
A Ryanair jet that carried opposition figure Raman Pratasevich was diverted to Minsk, Belarus, after a bomb threat, Monday. (AP Photo/Mindaugas Kulbis, File)

Russia will allow European flights to arrive and depart via routes that bypass Belarusian airspace, the RBC news outlet reported late on Thursday, despite Moscow previously denying access to two carriers that skirted Belarus en route to Moscow.

Russia on Thursday withheld clearance for an Austrian Airlines Vienna-Moscow flight plan avoiding Belarus – a day after failing to approve a revised Air France Paris-Moscow route. Both flights were canceled.

It did allow an Austrian Airlines Vienna-Moscow flight to bypass Belarusian airspace on Friday however, the TASS news agency cited the company as saying, and allowed in other foreign carriers on Thursday.

The European Union has urged its airlines to avoid Belarus and has moved to close its own airspace to Belarusian carriers amid outrage over Sunday’s interception of a Ryanair jet en route to Lithuania from Greece, and the arrest of a dissident journalist on board.

Russia’s refusal to allow some flights skirting Belarus to enter its airspace since then fueled speculation that Moscow might be mulling a blanket ban on such flights to support Belarus, a close ally.

But the RBC daily, citing a source close to the Ministry of Transport, said Russia would soon formally authorize flights to and from Moscow that bypass Belarus.

The earlier problems were down to the technical need to work out new routes, it reported.

Russia’s federal aviation agency Rosaviatsiya held a meeting to discuss the permissions on Thursday evening, another source told RBC.

Rosaviatsiya was not immediately able to comment when asked about the report. The Transport Ministry declined to comment.