KIEV, April 3. /TASS/. The Ukrainian government has banned unscheduled flights to Russia in the wake of a visit to Moscow by presidential candidate Yuri Boiko and Chairman of the Political Council of the ‘Opposition Platform - For Life’ party Viktor Medvedchuk. The move was initiated by the Ukrainian Interior Ministry.
Interior Minister Arsen Avakov claimed that the two opposition members "used a loophole in Ukraine’s legislation" to take a direct flight to Moscow. He added that the Interior Ministry had initiated amendments to the legislation concerning the use of the country’s air space in order to "make unscheduled flights between Ukraine and the aggressor country impossible."
Avakov also said that the ban would not apply to potential flights arranged for international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
Ukrainian Prime Minister Vladimir Groisman, in turn, said that he "would allow these politicians to travel by an An-2 biplane aircraft provided it is a one-way trip." "It must be clear to everyone that no one has the right to humiliate the state of Ukraine," he added.
Groisman emphasized that "these restrictions will remain in place until Russia… ceases to be an aggressor country and turns into a civilized state."
Trip to Moscow
Members of the ‘Opposition Platform - For Life’ party Yuri Boiko and Viktor Medvedchuk made a visit to Moscow on March 22, departing from Kiev’s Zhuliany airport. The two politicians were received by Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. The parties discussed ways to restore trade and economic ties, the gas issue and the possibilities to establish a joint gas transportation consortium. The meeting also involved CEO of Russia’s Gazprom Alexey Miller.
Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuri Lutsenko said later that a criminal investigation would be opened into Boiko and Medvedchuk over illegal border crossing, while Prime Minister Vladimir Groisman and Interior Minister Arsen Avakov pointed to the need to conduct a probe in that regard. At the same time, Ukrainian State Border Service Spokesman Oleg Slobodyan said the Service did not have any reason to prevent Boiko and Medvedchuk from crossing the border.
There has been no air transport service between Russia and Ukraine for the past three and a half years. Tensions first rose when Kiev demanded that Moscow pay fines for the allegedly illegal flights of Russian air carriers to Crimea, which had reunited with Russia in March 2014. In September 2015, Ukraine imposed sanctions on more than 20 Russian air companies. According to then Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, flights to Crimea, which allegedly violated Ukraine’s air space, were the reason behind the move.
As a result, Russia had to take retaliatory steps against Ukrainian air carriers. A few days later, Yatsenyuk made a statement saying that Russian air companies would be banned from operating flights to Ukraine if they "carry military and dual-use goods or Russian troops." A total ban on regular flights to Russia was announced on October 25, 2015.
In response, Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) barred all Ukrainian air carriers from operating flights to Russia.