Russia could block overflights between Europe and Asia in retaliation to Western sanctions relating to the Crimean crisis.
Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the Russian government was considering a series of measures in response to Western sanctions that shut down the country’s first low-cost airline, according to the Associated Press.
“First is a ban on using the airspace of our country for transit flights by European and US airlines in the ... Asia-Pacific region,” said Mr Medvedev. “Of course this is a severe measure. Nevertheless, we need to mention it.”
Aeroflot’s low-cost subsidiary Dobrolet which flew to Crimea, annexed by Russia in March, said at the weekend it was forced to ground all of its flights because of EU sanctions hitting its leases for Boeing aircraft, the report added.
European airlines such as Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France and Finnair that operate many long-haul routes to Asia could be affected if Moscow puts into effect such a ban.
According to Bank of America Merrill Lynch, estimates show that using other longer routes could cost about €22,400 per flight in higher fuel and operating costs.
It also noted that Russia’s top airline Aeroflot, which receives the fees gathered from European airlines for the overflight rights, would be sent into a financial tailspin by such a ban.
The US and its Europeans allies have accused Moscow of supplying arms and expertise to a pro-Moscow insurgency in eastern Ukraine, and have sanctioned individuals and companies in Russia in retaliation.
Moscow denies supporting the rebels and accuses the West of blocking attempts at a political settlement by encouraging Kiev to use brutal force to crush the insurgency.
“Until the last moment, we hoped that our foreign colleagues would understand that sanctions lead to a deadlock and no one needs them,” Mr Medvedev said. “But they didn’t, and the situation now requires us to take retaliatory measures.”