Some airlines have canceled or diverted flights to Ukraine amid warnings from the West that an invasion by Russia is imminent as Kyiv says it will keep its airspace open.
Russia denies it intends to invade Ukraine despite massing tens of thousands of troops near the Ukrainian border and denouncing the West of “peak hysteria”. A call between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to result in a breakthrough on Saturday, with the US warning Russia of crippling sanctions for military aggression.
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Western leaders are pushing back against Russian demands that the US-led NATO alliance withdraw from Eastern Europe and never expand into Ukraine.
Reflecting the concerns of Western powers, Dutch airline KLM has cancelled flights to Ukraine until further notice, the company said on Saturday.
Dutch sensitivity to potential danger in Ukrainian airspace is high following the 2014 shooting down of a Malaysian jetliner flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur as it flew over a part of Eastern Ukraine held by Russia-backed rebels. All 298 people on board died, including 198 Dutch citizens.
The Ukrainian charter airline SkyUp said on Sunday its flight from Madeira, Portugal, to Kyiv was diverted to the Moldovan capital of Chisinau after the plane’s Irish leasing company had revoked permission for it to cross into Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s government on Sunday allocated 16.6 billion hryvnia ($592m) to guarantee the continuation of flights through Ukrainian airspace, Prime Minister Denys Shmygal said.
“This decision will stabilise the situation on the market of passenger air transportation and will guarantee the return to Ukraine of our citizens who are currently abroad,” he said on social media.
Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry held an emergency meeting aimed at maintaining foreign travel and keeping the country from becoming more isolated in the heat of the crisis.
“The airspace over Ukraine remains open and the state is working on preempting risks for airlines,” the ministry said after the meeting on Sunday.
Ukraine’s infrastructure ministry acknowledged that “some carriers are facing difficulties linked to fluctuations on the insurance market.
News agency Interfax-Ukraine said Ukrainian insurance companies had received a notification from reinsurers that airlines were not covered for war risks.
Travel warning from dozen countries
The United States, its Western allies and other nations have been scaling back or evacuating embassy staff and have advised their citizens not to travel to Ukraine amid the standoff.
In addition to the US, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Japan, Latvia, Norway, Slovakia, Israel, Italy, Germany, Turkey and the Netherlands are among the countries that have advised their citizens to leave Ukraine and not to travel there.
The diplomatic drawdown has touched the staff of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) monitoring mission in Ukraine, which has been following the eight-year conflict across Ukraine’s Russian-backed separatist-held east that has killed more than 14,000 people.
However, images on social media and reports suggested that convoys of its white SUVs were leaving various parts of the conflict zone as staff moved to comply with their respective governments’ travel advisories.