Russia has refused two European airlines from landing in Moscow after they plan to avoid flying over Belarus. Air France and Austrian Airlines had to cancel operations after Russia rejected their flight plans.

Numerous countries are implementing sanctions against Belarus after its regime hijacked a Ryanair 737 traveling between Athens and Vilnius to arrest a subversive journalist on the flight. 

Belavia, a Belarus airline, has also been prohibited from using EU airspace.

Russia, a Steadfast Ally of Belarus

The blocking is reportedly an indication that Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing protection for the former Soviet state after most nations protested its act of hijacking a Ryanair flight to arrest the journalist previously this week. 

According to Austrian Airlines, Russia declined to grant permission for a planned flight from Vienna to reach Moscow due to the new measures that European Union (EU) nations have implemented to isolate Minsk, the capital of Belarus.

According to spokesperson Yvonne Wachholder, based on an advisory by the EU Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Austrian Airlines has suspended flights through Belarusian airspace for the time being until they are notified. Due to this, changes to the flight route from Vienna to Moscow are needed. He added an alteration in flight routes should be approved by the authorities. But, the Russian authorities did not provide the permit. As a result, Austrian Airlines needs to cancel the flight from Vienna to Moscow, reported US News.

On the other hand, Air France canceled its flight from Paris to Moscow on Thursday following Russia's refusal to approve a new route bypassing Belarus, according to the company. An Air France representative stated the flight was postponed, then later canceled because they have no clearance, reported CBS News.

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European Union Airlines Ordered Not to Fly Over Belarus

The move comes following the EU telling European airlines not to fly over Belarus. It seems that Russia seeks to undermine the bloc's response to the act of the nation's strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Putin. 

European Union leaders called Lukashenko's act of commanding the diversion of the Ryanair flight to take into custody journalist Roman Protasevich as a "hijacking," as did the Ryanair CEO, reported Axios.

The EU Aviation Safety Agency on Wednesday prompted European carriers to avoid Belarusian airspace due to safety concerns. 

One Belarusian fighter jet was scrambled to accompany the Ryanair flight to Minsk following pilots being falsely cautioned by Belarusian air traffic controllers that a bomb was on board.

It is the first action from the Kremlin over the diplomatic bout between Western nations and Belarus. The EU and Britain have prohibited Belarusian airlines from flying over their territories. They have stated more sanctions are to follow, including against the president of Belarus of 27 years and other senior officials.

Russia is on the side of Belarus, but a big question is posed about what that would mean in practice as it affects aviation. Russia could reportedly be blocking several inbound flights that choose to avoid Belarusian airspace.

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