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WORLD NEWS

Is US airspace closed to Russia? Which other countries have closed their airspace to Russia?

US President Joe Biden announced a new raft of sanctions against Moscow, including following the EU and Canada in closing its airspace to Russian aviation.

Update:
An Aeroflot Airbus A320 aircraft takes off at Sheremetyevo airport outside Moscow. President Joe Biden will announce a ban on Russian aircraft from using US airspace during his State of the Union speech Tuesday, US media reported.
YURI KADOBNOVAFP

US President Joe Biden opened his State of the Union address on Tuesday by speaking about the situation in eastern Europe following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has now been ongoing for almost a week after Vladimir Putin unleashed a full-scale assault on Kyiv on 24 February. Biden praised the defence mounted by Ukrainian forces against the land, air and sea attack launched by the Kremlin, stating that "Ukrainians are fighting back with pure courage." The president also said that over $1 billion has been earmarked in military, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine, with the remainder of the package to be sent to the country in the coming weeks. Furthermore, Biden promised that he will continue to impose sanctions on Moscow to "inflict pain" on Putin and the Russian machinery of state, including closing US airspace to Russian aviation with immediate effect.

Washington’s decision to ban Russian carriers from its airspace follows the lead of the EU and Canada, which have already taken the measure to hit Moscow in the pocket. The new sanctions isolate Russia's aviation sector in a similar way to Iran and North Korea but will have much larger consequences given the bigger size of the Russian market and its high dependence on Western suppliers in recent years.

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Russia accounted for around 6% of global air traffic capacity in 2021, according to aviation consulting firm IBA, up from around 4% in 2019 due to the strong relative performance of its domestic market during the pandemic. According to the International Air Transport Association, the airline industry and foreign tourists arriving by air account for 1.8% of Russia’s GDP.

In a separate blow to the industry, Boeing announced it would suspend parts, maintenance and technical support for Russian airlines. "Because parts are limited, we will expect to see aircraft that are on the ground in Russia being robbed in order to keep the remainder of the fleet operational," Peter Walter, director of technical and asset management at IBA said on Tuesday.

Around 515 Russian jets with an estimated market value of about $10 billion are rented from foreign firms, according to analytics firm Cirium. The country’s three largest carriers, Aeroflot, S7 and Rossiya, have a combined fleet of just over 400 jets.

Russian airlines will also be barred from taking new aircraft on order from Western manufacturers, in a blow to Airbus and Boeing. National carriers have 62 planes on order with the two manufacturers, IBA data shows, including 25 Boeing 737 MAX jets that were due to be delivered to Utair this year.

Which countries have banned Russian aviation?

The European Union, the UK, the US and Canada have all banned Russian airlines from using their airspace.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen explained the extent of the ban in a statement: “First, we are shutting down the EU airspace for Russians. We are proposing a prohibition on all Russian-owned, Russian registered or Russian-controlled aircraft. These aircraft will no more be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU. This will apply to any plane owned, chartered or otherwise controlled by a Russian legal or natural person. Our airspace will be closed to every Russian plane and that includes the private jets of oligarchs.”

In retaliation, Moscow banned airlines from 36 countries, including the 27 EU nations and Canada, from its own airspace.

What sanctions are currently in place against Moscow?

France has declared an "all-out economic and financial war" against Russia, saying it would collapse the Russian economy as punishment for the invasion of Ukraine, drawing a stark warning from former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev: "Watch what you're saying, gentlemen! And don’t forget that in human history, economic wars often turned into real ones."

Among the sanctions in place against Moscow are the postponement of certification for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which has since filed for bankruptcy. Several Russian banks have also been excluded from the worldwide payment network SWIFT, which facilitates transfers between banks. The Russian rouble has been in freefall since the invasion of Ukraine began, plunging to a record low in Moscow of 110 to the dollar on Wednesday. The Russian stock market also remains closed. The US has also hit Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov with personal economic sanctions while the country’s oligarchs and financial elite are also being targeted in a similar way.

Tech exports to Russia have also been affected, with some of America's best-known companies including Apple, Boeing, Google, Ford and Exxon Mobil distancing themselves from Moscow under steady pressure from investors and consumers.

European Union countries are also considering a ban on Russian ships entering their ports, after similar moves by Canada and the United Kingdom. The world's biggest shipping lines, MSC and Maersk, have already suspended container shipping to and from Russia.

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