Estonia bans Belavia from flying to Estonian airports

Belavia plane.
Belavia plane.

The government will ban the Belarusian state-owned airline Belavia from flying to Estonian airports. Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said an official statement will be published later today.

Kallas wrote on Twitter on Thursday morning: "Position of @EstonianGovt: #Belavia flights will not be accepted in Estonian airports, official decision later today. [The] Belarusian government has to take responsibility for its actions."

The decision comes after Belarus ordered a Ryanair plane flying through Belarusian airspace to land in Minsk during a flight from Greece to Lithuania to arrest a journalist and his partner on Sunday. The plane was escorted by military aircraft to Minsk Airport.

Several other countries have closed their airspace to Belavia or banned the company's places from landing at airports.

Minister of Economic Affairs and Infrastructure Taavi Aas (Reform) told ERR that it has taken time to formalize the restrictions because the government wants to make them legally watertight.

"Restrictions have taken time because it is not a question of aviation safety, but of international relations and policy. Many [EU] member states have already done so, but there have been problems with them. For example, the Swedish ban has been challenged by Belavia and similar concerns have been raised by other member states," Aas said.

Responding to criticism that the government was able to halt all foreign flights very quickly when the coronavirus crisis erupted, Aas said the situations are different: "Today's situation is not legally comparable to last spring. We are setting a precedent right now."

The minister said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is creating sanctions which the government could approve this afternoon. 

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Editor: Helen Wright

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