International airlines continue to operate flights to and from Russia despite Ukraine invasion

Exclusive: Flights between London Heathrow and the Russian capital are being sold for less than £250 return

<p>Key hub: Russia’s busiest airport, Moscow Sheremetyevo, before the invasion of Ukraine </p>

Key hub: Russia’s busiest airport, Moscow Sheremetyevo, before the invasion of Ukraine

Direct flights between London and Moscow have been banned – but travellers between the UK and Russia can easily access one-stop journeys, with Belgrade now the prime air hub for east-west connections.

Several international airlines continue to operate flights to and from Russia, despite the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

Air Serbia, the national carrier based in Belgrade, is believed to have added extra flights to and from Moscow Sheremetyevo airport to cope with the demand.

For travel on Friday 11 March, the return fare from London Heathrow is £544. But on some dates for future travel, for example 4 April, the price falls by more than half to £249 return.

Air Serbia also offers connections from Amsterdam, Athens, Berlin and Rome via Belgrade to Moscow.

The aviation data analysts, ForwardKeys, reports that capacity scheduled in the first week of March rose by around 50 per cent.

This corresponds to an increase from two to three flights per day between Belgrade and Moscow.

The firm also says that 60 per cent more flight tickets were issued for travel from Russia to another destination via Serbia in the week immediately after the invasion than during the whole of January.

Olivier Ponti, vice-president for insights for ForwardKeys, said: “What’s most notable is the speed with which Serbia has become the gateway for travel between Russia and Europe.”

During January, 85 per cent of transfers from Russia via Serbia were to the neighbouring republic of Montenegro.

In the week after the invasion, the figure fell to 40 per cent as Serbia became a hub for onward travel to western Europe.

The Independent has found that several of the world’s leading airlines – including Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines – are still operating from their hubs to Russian cities. Each of these carriers has been asked to comment on continuing operations in Russia.

Turkish Airlines has four flights a day from Istanbul to Moscow plus two to St Petersburg.

For a same-day departure from Manchester via Istanbul to Moscow Vnukovo, the Turkish carrier is charging £842 return.

The airline has temporarily suspended services from Istanbul to the southern Russian cities of Rostov and Sochi.

ForwardKeys says domestic aviation in Russia has declined by almost half (49 per cent) since Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine.

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