The Malta Independent 30 September 2022, Friday
View E-Paper

Malta closes its airspace to Russian airlines

Albert Galea Sunday, 27 February 2022, 14:49 Last update: about 8 months ago

Malta has closed its airspace to Russian airlines in view of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced on Sunday.

The action follows that of many other European countries in response to Russia's war on Ukraine.

Malta is among at least 15 EU countries, including Italy, France, Belgium, Germany, Finland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Estonia, the Czech Republic and Poland to have shut off their airspace to Russian aircraft.

The UK shut its airspace off to Russian flights some days ago.

International media reports state that the EU is currently mulling over a union-wide ban for Russian air traffic into its airspace.  The travel sanctions follow economic sanctions against Russia which have been ramped up in recent days, to the point that Russia was excluded from SWIFT on Saturday night.

Moscow responded by closing its airspace to commercial and transit flights from EU countries, with the measure so far aimed at planes linked or registered to Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic.

The action comes as pressure intensifies on Malta to cancel its golden passport scheme, through which hundreds of Russian oligarchs have acquired European citizenship.  The European Commission on Saturday said in a joint statement with the UK and the USA amongst others that concrete action will be taken against such schemes.

Malta is already facing infringement proceedings over the scheme, which the government has continually defended. Nationalist Party leader Bernard Grech has called for Malta to stop allowing citizenship to be bought by Russian nationals, even though his party includes the continuation of the IIP scheme itself in its electoral manifesto, while others have called for the outright cancellation of Maltese passports issued to Russians through the scheme.

Russia is currently waging a war against Ukraine, having launched an invasion against its neighbours midway through last week. Despite being outnumbered, Ukrainian forces have held off the Russian invaders, with the capital city of Kyiv still standing strong despite heavy Russian attacks for the last two nights.  The city of Kharkiv, the second largest in Ukraine, meanwhile returned to Ukrainian hands on Sunday, after Russian light armour managed to break through the city's suburbs on Saturday night.

Russian advances have been largely limited to the south-east of Ukraine, where the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk were already held by Russian separatists.  An assault on the city of Mariupol however - a key interception point between Donetsk and Crimea, which was annexed from Ukraine in 2014 - has proven to be unsuccessful thus far, despite heavy shelling and an amphibious assualt.

Russia's aggression has drawn condemnation from across the globe, with only Belarus choosing to actively back it.  

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his nuclear deterrence forces to be on high alert, but soon after news emerged from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Ukrainian and Russian delegations would be meeting without preconditions on the Ukraine-Belarus border near the Pripyat river.

 

  • don't miss