Russia Warns of Delays in Issuing Permits to Fly Around Belarus

Russian aviation regulators said a jump in demand for new routes across its territory from European airlines seeking to avoid Belarus has led to delays in issuing permits, although dozens of flights have been rerouted.

The statement from Rosaviatsiya was the first Russian official explanation for permit holdups that had led Air France and Austrian Airlines to cancel flights in recent days. It comes a day after the Austrian Foreign Ministry called the disruption “totally incomprehensible.”

Austrian Airlines said Friday it had received permission to conduct a rerouted passenger flight between Vienna and Moscow, avoiding Belarusian airspace, but was still waiting for approval on a cargo trip between Vienna and Nanjing, which it said it expected.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the sudden surge in rerouting requests was “extraordinary,” adding that “technical hangups were inevitable.” Authorities “are working intensively to liquidate them,” he said.

The European Union’s air-safety regulator advised airlines to avoid flying over Belarus following the diversion of a Ryanair Holdings Plc flight on Sunday, which raised doubts about Minsk’s respect for international aviation rules.

Skirting Belarus causes minor changes in airlines’ anticipated flight path once they enter Russia, for which they need permission from local aviation authorities.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova denounced the EU move to avoid Belarusian airspace as “politically motivated,” calling it “complete irresponsibility that put the safety of passengers at risk.”

Rosaviatsiya said it had informed foreign airlines Thursday that rerouting permissions might take longer to process. The agency said in a statement Friday that 53 flights had been rerouted around Belarus in the last 24 hours, while 113 European flights continued over that country, in addition to 134 Russian ones.

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