Russia to resume flights with Israel and 51 other 'friendly' countries

Russia has closed its airspace to airlines from 36 countries, including all 27 members of the European Union, in response to Ukraine-related sanctions targeting its aviation sector.

 Russian president Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov attend the Libya summit in Berlin, Germany, January 19, 2020 (photo credit: HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/REUTERS)
Russian president Vladimir Putin and foreign minister Sergei Lavrov attend the Libya summit in Berlin, Germany, January 19, 2020
(photo credit: HANNIBAL HANSCHKE/REUTERS)

Russia plans to end restrictions on flights to and from 52 countries after April 9, part of its plans to reduce measures taken to slow the spread of COVID-19, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said on Monday.

Russia plans to resume flights to and from Argentina, South Africa and other "friendly countries," Mishustin said, meaning those that have not joined the latest wave of Western sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a "special operation" to demilitarize its neighbor.

Other countries with which Russia will resume flights after April 9 include Israel, Algeria, China, Lebanon, Peru and Pakistan, Russian state media reported.

Russia imposed broad travel restrictions at the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, many of which remain in force, but has gradually expanded the list of countries deemed safe for air travel.

Mishustin also said Russia would be lifting restrictions on travel across the land border between Russia and China.

 An Aeroflot Boeing 777-300ER aircraft is reflected in a puddle at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2015. (credit: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo) An Aeroflot Boeing 777-300ER aircraft is reflected in a puddle at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside Moscow, Russia, July 7, 2015. (credit: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo)

Russia has closed its airspace to airlines from 36 countries, including all 27 members of the European Union, in response to Ukraine-related sanctions targeting its aviation sector.

Punitive measures imposed by Western powers have also forced Western firms to terminate leasing contracts with Russian airlines for over 500 aircraft.

The sanctions also prevent Russian airlines from buying aircraft parts or maintenance services from Europe or the United States, adding to the pressure on the world's 11th largest aviation market from a ban on using North American and European airspace.