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13 Feb, 2022 10:23

Passenger plane diverted from Ukraine over airspace closure speculation

The owner of the aircraft prohibited it from flying over the country
Passenger plane diverted from Ukraine over airspace closure speculation

A passenger jet operated by Kiev’s SkyUp Airlines had to abort its flight from Portugal to the Ukrainian capital on Saturday, after the aircraft’s Irish-based owner prohibited it from entering Ukraine’s airspace. The move comes amid speculation of an imminent air ‘blockade’ of Ukraine in anticipation of an alleged Russian invasion, the latter being a claim peddled by the West and vehemently denied by Russia itself.

According to a statement released by SkyUp, the plane originally bound for Kiev’s Borispol Airport had to land in Moldova’s capital, Chisinau, instead. “We hope to understand the uniqueness of the situation on the part of passengers and make every effort to bring everyone to Ukraine,” the company said in a statement.

SkyUp explained that the owner of the plane, which leases it to the airline, notified the Ukrainian company when the aircraft was already in midair that it “categorically” prohibited the plane from entering Ukrainian airspace.

Ukrainian news outlet Strana.ua released an article on Saturday claiming that major international insurance companies will stop covering planes flying over Ukraine. According to unnamed sources cited by the outlet, this could mean that not only international airlines, but also most Ukrainian airlines, would not be able to fly in Ukrainian airspace, as many domestically operated jets are either leased to Ukrainian airlines by foreign owners or at least insured overseas. Moreover, the leased aircraft may be ordered to leave Ukraine “in the near future,” Strana.ua says.

One source told the Ukrainian outlet that British insurers are “imposing an air blockade” on the Eastern European country, with no single jet able to “fly in and out of Ukraine starting from approximately Monday afternoon.” Strana.ua noted, however, that Ukrainian airlines have yet to issue any official comments, while most foreign companies are still selling tickets to Ukraine.

The news coincided with a decision to halt all flights to Ukraine by Dutch flag carrier KLM Airlines. In a statement released on Saturday, KLM said the “next flight to the capital Kiev is scheduled for tonight, but will not be operated.” The airline cited “travel advice” being adjusted to “code red,” as well as an “extensive safety analysis.” The Dutch airline said the move was about “choosing safe and optimal routes,” and was made on the basis of information shared by the Dutch intelligence services, the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, Germany’s Lufthansa told Russia’s RBC news outlet that the “possibility of halting services is being considered,” adding that the company is “closely monitoring the situation in Ukraine.” The airline’s representative clarified, however, that “no decision has yet been made.”