EU closes airspace for Russian airlines, as Netherlands, Portugal, Czech Republic send weapons to Ukraine


Russian airlines have been bare from European Union airspace, as the region tightens economic sanctions slammed on Russian after Thursday’s invasion of Ukraine, on the orders of its President, Vladimir Putin.

Kiev, the capital city of Ukraine under Russian bombardment, Thursday

This is also Portugal, The Netherlands, Czech Republic have dispatched arms and ammunition to Ukrainian troops, after Germany had, Saturday, deployed missiles to Ukrainian soldiers fighting to repel Russian invasion.

Matthias Deis, deputy studio manager for German TV broadcaster ARD Capital Studio, announced the decision on Twitter.

“EU countries close airspace for Russian airlines. Just confirmed to me from a reliable source.“Reversal of flights over Russian territory in anticipation of Russian response I hear. This means that Russia could also close its airspace,” he said.

This comes after Germany broke with a historic policy earlier Saturday when they announced they would be sending military weapons to help Ukraine.

Several other European countries have made similar announcements, while Russian-owned planes can no longer enter UK airspace.

Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia and Romania said earlier today that they were banning some flights from Russia.

Russia itself earlier said it would close its airspace to flights from Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic after they issued a ban on Russian jets. They retaliated in kind to the UK.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas had urged other European Union countries to issue similar restrictions on Twitter, adding: “There is no place for planes of the aggressor state in democratic skies.”

Latvian Transport Minister Talis Linkaits also said on Twitter that “Latvia will close its airspace to Russian-registered airlines for commercial flights.” He added that the decision would be formally approved at the next cabinet meeting.

Flightradar 24 showed that an Aeroflot carrier, among the airplanes that had been banned from UK airspace, was forced to take a significant detour over Northern Europe and the Baltic Sea this morning between Moscow and Budapest. The journey took a full 70 minutes longer than usual.

However, Russia’s closing of airspaces in response has also created problems for the West.

Meanwhile, the Czech Republic committed on Saturday, February 26, to send a shipment of weapons to Ukraine worth over $8.5 million to a place of Ukrainian choice.

Following the invasion of Russian troops in Ukraine, four NATO members, Portugal, Czech Republic, Poland and the Netherlands have announced they would send reinforcements to assist the East-European country.

The Czech Republic committed on Saturday, February 26, to send a “shipment of weapons to Ukraine” worth over $8.5 million to a “place of Ukrainian choice.”

“The government has approved a shipment of weapons to Ukraine. We are sending machine guns, submachine guns, sniper rifles and pistols and their corresponding ammunition valued at CZK 188 million,” Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala tweeted.

“We are doing everything we can to help Ukraine,” Fiala added.

Also, Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa said Friday that the country would be sending reinforcements to join Ukrainian soldiers on the ground to help secure their borders as this “is a war against the freedom of self-determination of a democratic country and therefore it is also a war against the freedom of self-determination and against democracy.”

Speaking at a televised news conference, the Portuguese prime minister, flanked by Defense Minister Joao Gomes Cravinho, left, and the Chief of Armed Forces General Staff Admiral António da Silva Ribeiro said;

“There was an unanimity of all states, in view of the need to strengthen the NATO presence on the borders of Ukraine and in all the alliance countries that are close to the Ukraine region.”

“Portugal, in this sense, in addition to the forces that this year has assigned to the European command of NATO, decided to anticipate, from the second half to the first half, the mobilization and commitment of an infantry company that will act in Romania and that will be projected in the coming weeks,”Costa said.

“Several other countries at the moment are either anticipating or reinforcing or deciding to reinforce their participation with these countries [bordering Ukraine] in order to have a clear manifestation of unity and deterrence regarding Russia’s actions,” Costa added.

When asked for a specific number of soldiers that would be sent to support Ukraine, Costa said the infantry company would include 175 troopers.

The Netherlands also on Saturday said it would be providing Ukraine with more weapons.

“The Netherlands will supply Ukraine 200 anti-aircraft Stinger missiles. Other defence material already on its way,” the prime minister’s foreign affairs and defense adviser, Geoffrey van Leeuwen, tweeted.

Germany, who is very dependent on Russia for its energy and gas, also announced it will deliver anti-tank weapons and missiles to Ukraine, a major policy shift after resisting Kyiv’s previous calls for defensive weaponry.

It would also be recalled that earlier, Thursday, British troops were urgently scrambled to Russia’s doorstep.

UK Defence Minister James Heappey confirmed on Friday afternoon that further British armed forces are being deployed to Estonia “earlier than planned”, in order to double up the UK presence there. The troops will be stationed there “indefinitely” to “reassure one of our closest NATO allies”.

In response to an Urgent Question, Mr Heappey said: “In addition to the Royal Tank Regiment battle group that has been in place in Estonia for the last six months, the Royal Welsh battlegroup will be arriving in Estonia earlier than planned to double up our force levels and those doubled-up force levels remain indefinitely.

“They will be augmented by the headquarters of 12 Mechanised Brigade, meaning that the United Kingdom will have an armoured brigade in Estonia reassuring one of our closest NATO allies.”

However, Heappey warned against “unnecessarily” escalating the conflict saying: “We must all in this House be clear that British and Nato troops should not, must not, play an active role in Ukraine.”