1,000-mile wide hole in east European airspace: Flight radar shows how ALL commercial aircraft are avoiding skies over Ukraine, Belarus and Russia after Putin ordered his brutal invasion
- Stark graphic reveals how dozens of flights are diverting routes around Ukraine
- Flights between the UK and the eastern European country have been suspended
- The EASA has said airspace in Moldova and Belarus may also pose safety risks
Dozens of flights are diverting their routes around Ukraine after airspace was closed following Russia’s all-out invasion earlier this morning.
Rough estimates suggest an area as large as 1,000 miles wide is currently being avoided amid the ongoing conflict, with flights between the UK and the eastern European country suspended as a result.
Images from aviation website Flightradar24 show there are no civilian aircraft in Ukrainian airspace and very few over neighbouring Moldova and Belarus, where many Russian troops are positioned.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said earlier that airspace in those two countries, within 100 nautical miles of their borders with Ukraine, could also pose safety risks.
‘In particular, there is a risk of both intentional targeting and misidentification of civil aircraft,’ the agency said in a conflict zone bulletin.
‘The presence and possible use of a wide range of ground and airborne warfare systems poses a high risk for civil flights operating at all altitudes and flight levels.’
Wizz Air cancelled its flights between Luton Airport and the Ukrainian cities of Kiev and Lviv on Thursday, before Ryanair and Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) – the other carriers which fly between the two countries – also suspended those routes.
A number of other journeys to global destinations are likely to be affected, with planes having to take sometimes lengthy diversions.
It comes after the UK Foreign Office updated its travel advice to warn that British nationals in Ukraine ‘should not expect increased consular support or help with evacuating’.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps imposed the ban – later reinforced by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Thursday morning, tweeting that he made the decision ‘following the horrific events overnight’.
Dozens of flights are diverting their routes around Ukraine after airspace was closed following Russia’s all-out invasion earlier this morning
A graph shows how the number of flights to and from Ukraine has fluctuated over the last year
A graphic shows European military air movements around Ukraine today
Mr Shapps added: ‘I’ve instructed @UK-CAA (the Civil Aviation Authority) to ensure airlines avoid Ukraine airspace to keep passengers and crew safe.
‘We continue to stand with the people of Ukraine and work with our international partners to respond to this act of aggression.’
Ryanair said it has suspended its flights to and from Ukraine for ‘at least the next 14 days’ and has removed them from sale for ‘at least the next four weeks until further information becomes available from EU safety agencies’.
It added: ‘Ryanair remains committed to our services to/from Ukraine and we look forward to restoring flight services there as soon as it is safe to do so.
‘We sincerely regret and apologise for these unprecedented disruptions and any inconvenience that they will inevitably cause to our Ukrainian customers.’
A Wizz Air spokeswoman said: ‘The safety and security of our passengers and crew remains our number one priority and we hope normality will return to Ukraine soon.’
UIA said it ‘takes all possible measures to ensure the safety of our passengers’.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: ‘The safety and security of our customers and people always comes first.
‘We continue to monitor the situation in Ukraine and Russia extremely carefully following the escalation of conflict, with ongoing dynamic assessments of our flight routings based on the latest situation reports and always following the strict advice set out by the Department for Transport and other global regulators.’
‘Virgin Atlantic services have avoided Ukrainian airspace for many years, going above and beyond official guidance, which is supplemented by our own risk assessments.
‘This has included adjustments to our flight planning since December to further increase distance from the Ukraine-Russia border.’
The lack of flights will make it harder for British nationals to evacuate from Ukraine to the UK.
The Foreign Office updated its travel advice to state: ‘Ukraine’s airspace is closed. It is likely that commercial routes out of Ukraine will be severely disrupted and roads across Ukraine could be closed.’
It added: ‘Russia’s military action in Ukraine will severely affect the British Government’s ability to provide consular assistance in Ukraine.
‘British nationals should not expect increased consular support or help with evacuating in these circumstances.’
An explosion lights up the night sky over Kiev in the early hours of Thursday, as Russia launched an all-out attack on Ukraine from north, south and east with bombs, cruise missiles and rockets raining from the skies
Russian Mi-8 attack helicopters stage an assault on Gostomel air base, just on the outskirts of Kiev, after Vladimir Putin launched an all-out attack on the country
A huge explosion is seen at Vinnytsia military base, in central Ukraine, as the country comes under all-out attack by Russia
Early morning airline traffic skirted the whole country in crowded corridors to the north and west.
An El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto made a sudden U-turn out of Ukraine’s airspace around the time of its closure, flight tracking website FlightRadar24 showed.
A LOT Polish Airlines flight from Warsaw to Kyiv also turned back to Warsaw around the same time.
Russia said today it had suspended domestic flights to and from several airports near its border with Ukraine, including Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar and Stavropol, until March 2.
Russia has also closed some airspace in the Rostov sector to ‘in order to provide safety’ for civil aviation flights, a notice to airmen showed.
Before Ukraine advised of the airspace curbs, Britain, Canada, France, Italy and the United States had told their airlines to avoid certain airspace above eastern Ukraine and Crimea, but stopped short of a total ban.
On Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Liz Truss urged Britons in the country to ‘leave now via commercial routes while they are still available’.
Flights are continuing to operate over Russia, which is a route used by many services between the UK and Asia.
In July 2014, Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a missile launched from an area of Ukraine controlled by pro-Russia separatists, killing all 298 people on board.
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