EU closes airspace to Russian flights and bans pro-Kremlin media after invasion of Ukraine

Ursula von der Leyen announces escalation of sanctions on fourth day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Monday 28 February 2022 07:28
Liz Truss says there will be 'economic cost' from the sanctions placed on Russia

The EU will close its airspace to Russian airlines, as well as funding weapon supplies to Ukraine and banning pro-Kremlin media, Ursula von der Leyen has announced.

The European Commission president said she was “shutting down the EU airspace for Russian-owned, Russian-registered or Russian-controlled aircraft” in an escalation of sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“They won’t be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU. Including the private jets of oligarchs,” she told a news conference on Sunday, on the fourth day since Vladimir Putin launched the invasion.

Ms von der Leyen said the bloc of 27 nations would take the unprecedented step of enforcing a “ban [on] the Kremlin’s media machine”, including the state-owned news outlets Russia Today and Sputnik and their subsidiaries.

“We are developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe,” she said.

Ms von der Leyen added: “For the first time ever, the European Union will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack.”

She also stressed the EU would target Russia’s ally Belarus – the “other aggressor in this war” – with a package of sanctions hitting its key sectors and officials, including president Alexander Lukashenko.

“We will hit Lukashenko’s regime with a new package of sanctions,” Ms von der Leyen said.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen (L) and European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell (R) give a joint press statement on further sanctions

The sanctions on Belarus would impact exports of products such as mineral fuels, tobacco, timber, cement, iron and steel.

And in a message to tens of thousands of Ukrainians, Ms von der Leyen added: “We welcome with open arms those who have to flee from Putin’s bombs.”

An Aeroflot Airbus A330 plane taxies out at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. Flights from Russia are affected by the new measures

The EU is “mobilising every effort and every Euro to support our eastern member states”, she also said.

Her speech follows announcements by the EU – after days of wrangling over the matter – the UK and the US that some Russian banks will be banned from the global banking system Swift.

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