Russia refused to allow two EU-based airlines to land flights in the country to avoid Belarusian airspace days after Belarus scrambled a fighter jet and used a false bomb alert to divert an Irish passenger jet to Minsk and arrest a dissident Belarusian journalist.
Russia's decision, an apparent show of support for Belarus, forced the cancellation of an Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna and an Air France flight from Paris, the airlines said.
European Union foreign policy head Josep Borrell said before an EU defense ministers meeting Friday in Lisbon that the EU had yet to determine if the refusals were isolated incidents or if Russia was systematically refusing to allow European airlines to land if they avoided Belarus.
"We don't know if it is case-by-case, specific cases, or is a general norm from the Russian authorities in order to make the European planes overfly Belarus," Borrell said.
Russia's federal aviation agency has told airlines that route changes from Europe to Russia were due to political disputes involving Belarus and that they may cause longer clearance times. The Kremlin described Friday's issues as "technical."