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MOSCOW, October 26. /TASS/. Kiev-initiated termination of regular air links between Ukraine and Russia, effective since Sunday, is part of a big game aimed at disrupting all connections between the two countries and peoples, polled analysts have told TASS.
Last September the Ukrainian authorities declared that Russian air carriers operating flights to Crimea were in breach of Ukrainian legislation. There followed a decision to prohibit all Russian airlines from making flights to Ukraine starting from October 25. In response, Russia took symmetrical countermeasures to close Russian airspace to Ukrainian airlines starting from the same date. The mutual sanctions came into force at 00:00 on October 25.
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on his page in Facebook Kiev’s idea to outlaw Russian flights to Ukraine was "another bright example of how Ukrainian officials are waging a war against their own people." According to the Russian civil aviation authority Rosaviatsiya Ukrainian citizens account for three quarters of the passenger traffic between Russia and their home country. The termination of air links will strip Ukrainian air carriers of 20% of their profit. Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov estimates the overall losses of Russian and Ukrainian airlines from the ban on flights at 7-8 billion roubles a year ($100-120 million).
The director of the CIS Studies Institute, Konstantin Zatulin, believes that the termination of air links between Ukraine and Russia at Kiev’s initiative has dealt a hard blow on the old-time fraternal, historical, cultural, economic and social ties between our peoples. "The issue in focus is not something impersonal, such as curtailment of trade and cooperation in the defence and aircraft-building industries, but Kiev’s wish to minimize or even disrupt people-to-people contacts. This will have a rather painful effect on family ties, friendships and business relations between Russians and Ukrainians," Zatulin told TASS.
"One cannot but feel sympathy for the nearly three million Ukrainians who have to earn a living in Russia. More than 1.1 million of them are from the southeast of Ukraine, until just recently a scene of combat operations where there are no jobs for civilians," Zatulin said.
"Rumours of the forthcoming abolition of air links between Ukraine and Russia instantly pushed train ticket prices up 50%. This surge is very sensitive for those in the low income brackets. A air journey to Kiev through Belarus or the Baltic countries is far longer and costlier, not to mention Kiev’s plan for letting western air carriers increase the number of flights to open a roundabout way to Moscow via European cities," Zatulin said.
Kiev’s latest demarche, aimed at severing ties with Russia, will surely anger a large share of Ukraine’s population and cause opposition sentiment to soar. "Last Sunday’s local elections in Ukraine demonstrated a very low turnout, in some regions no greater than 30%. In two cities close to the area of recent hostilities - Mariupol and Krasnoarmeisk - the elections were disrupted. In many regions the results are not in favour of the presidential Pyotr Poroshenko Bloc. And Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk’s Popular Front party, aware of the disastrous slump in its popularity rating, decided to stay out of the election race altogether, thereby pronouncing a verdict to itself," Zatulin said.
The director of the Political Studies Institute, Sergey Markov, says Kiev’s idea of closing the sky over Ukraine to Russian air carriers will hit Ukrainian economic entities in the first place. "Some Ukrainian airlines have asked Russia’s Rosaviatsiya to do something for the sake of preserving regular flights between Russian and Ukrainian cities. But the authorities in Kiev have left no chance for them, which may cause a number of Ukrainian air carriers to go bankrupt and out business," Markov told TASS.
"The Ukrainian authorities’ decision to harm their own airlines was a deliberate one. It was part of a big game by the regime in Kiev to tear Ukraine away from Russia. In fact, it was precisely for this purpose that the US-led West supported last February’s government coup in Ukraine and brought Ukraine’s Russophobic politicians to power," Markov concluded.
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