Russia and Belarus are moving forward with plans to gradually reopen several flights between the two countries as Belarusian flag carrier Belavia resumes flights to Russia’s Sochi and Krasnodar.
Belavia will reportedly start operating the Minsk-Sochi-Minsk flights from August 7, based on a three-day-a-week schedule. The flights to the Russian resort town of Sochi will take place on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. In addition, the regular Minsk-Krasnodar-Minsk flights will be available three times a week since August 8.
Passengers are highly recommended to learn about the entry rules from relevant authorities before purchasing tickets, according to the statement issued by Belavia airlines on Thursday.
The possibilities of increasing the number of flights and adding new routes to Belavia’s flight map were discussed on the sidelines of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko’s visit to St. Petersburg in mid-July. Before the meeting, the Russian and Belarusian presidents tasked the two countries’ transport ministries to “organize all aspects of air traffic.”
Meanwhile, some Russian airlines have also increased the number of flights to Belarus. The national flag carrier and the largest airline in Russia, Aeroflot, has increased the number of flights from Moscow to Minsk from five to ten a week since June 10. Another carrier, UTair, operates flights to Minsk three times a week from Samara, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, while Nord Wind airline flies from Kaliningrad to Minsk twice a week.
Belarusian airspace has mainly been clear of traffic due to the sanctions Minsk has been facing over the recent scandal involving Belarusian journalist Roman Protasevich.
Protasevich, aged 26, ran the Telegram channels Nexta and Nexta Live, where more than a million subscribers could follow information, photos, and videos about last year’s opposition protests. He left Belarus and had been based in Lithuania since November 2020. Earlier, the Belarusian court included the channel in the list of “extremist” materials.
On May 23, 2021, Ryanair Flight 4978 (Athens-Vilnius), with Protasevich and his girlfriend on board, was diverted to the Belarusian capital city. In Minsk, Belarusian journalist and his girlfriend were detained.
The European Union was quick to react, introducing a package of measures against Belarus, including sanctions toward the Belarusian aviation industry. The sanctions prevent Belarusian aircraft from landing on the territory of the European Union’s member states or enter the countries’ airspace.
Belarus is currently working with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to defend national interests and resolve the situation. The country’s government filed complaints with the ICAO over what it calls illegal actions against the country.
“We are not concealing anything,” Belta quoted Belarusian Ambassador to Russia Vladimir Semashko as saying two weeks ago.
“Partners from other countries and the air carrier itself are not as open and avoid answering difficult questions. We are waiting for the conclusion of the ICAO commission set up to look into this case. Belarus hopes for a fair and objective investigation.”
Officials in Minsk are eager to attract more foreign air carriers from Serbia, the United Arab Emirates, Azerbaijan, and Qatar. Semashko also noted that Belarus is now working to increase the number of flights to Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Egypt, Georgia, and other countries.