EU closes skies to Russian aircraft
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said the EU will close its airspace to Russian planes as part of the next wave of sanctions on Moscow over its military offensive in Ukraine.
Speaking on Sunday, von der Leyen said Europe was “shutting down the EU airspace” for all Russian aircraft, declaring “they won’t be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU. Including the private jets of oligarchs.”
The ban will apply to Russian-owned, controlled and registered planes.
The closure of European airspace represents an expansion of nationwide blocks by the UK, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and the Czech Republic and others announced during the preceding days.
European countries and the EU itself have deployed an array of sanctions against Russia in response to its military operation in Ukraine launched by President Vladimir Putin on February 24.
Russia has responded in kind so far, closing its airspace to planes registered or owned by Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Poland, the UK, and the Czech Republic, among other nations.
The EU and US have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in further military assistance to Ukraine as the fighting continues, while the EU, UK and US have imposed stricter financial sanctions on Russia including banning certain banks from the SWIFT international payments system and imposing “restrictive measures” on Russia’s central bank.
Von der Leyen also announced the EU would ban “the Kremlin’s media machine,” saying RT, Sputnik and their subsidiaries would “no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war.”
Putin claims Russia's offensive in Ukraine was the only remaining option to protect the newly-recognized Donbass republics against attacks from Kiev. He said the goal was to demilitarize and "de-Nazify" the country. Ukraine said the attack was unjustified and unprovoked.
On Sunday, Putin said Russia has put its nuclear forces on high alert, citing “aggressive statements” from NATO.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky agreed on Sunday to negotiations with Russia “without preconditions,” announcing that his government would dispatch a diplomatic delegation to the border of Belarus near the Pripyat River. However, subsequent reports indicated that negotiations will not take place until Monday.