Europe safety agency urges airlines to avoid Crimean airspace

BERLIN (Reuters) - Europe’s aviation safety authority warned on Thursday of “serious risks” for international airlines flying over Crimea because there may be two services managing airspace there after the region’s annexation by Russia.

The European Aviation Safety Agency said Russia had published a series of notices saying it intended to provide air traffic services within the area controlled by the flight information center at Simferopol, Crimea’s main airport.

EASA, which is based in Germany, therefore said national aviation authorities in Europe should encourage carriers to avoid the airspace over Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine last month, and use alternative routes.

“It is unsafe if more than one Air Traffic Service provider is in charge of one single Flight Information Region (FIR); no compromise can be made with the safety of the flying passengers,” Patrick Ky, executive director at EASA, said.

Eurocontrol, the European air traffic management agency, said it strongly advised carriers against flying through the region, known as Simferopol FIR, and published a map of alternative routes.

Separately, Ukraine’s interim government, installed after mass protests toppled pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich in February, has reported that it can no longer deliver mail to Crimea, according to the U.N. Universal Postal Union.

A UPU spokesman said a message from Ukrainian postal operator Ukrposhta sent late last month stated that it was experiencing “difficulties” in getting any kind of postal item to the regional capital Sevastopol and other parts of Crimea.

Until Russian troops took over Crimea last month and closed Simferopol airport to flights from mainland Ukraine, most foreign and domestic mail for the peninsula and its majority Russian population was flown in from Ukraine’s capital Kiev.

Reporting by Michelle Martin and Victoria Bryan in Frankfurt and Robert Evans in Geneva, editing by Mark Heinrich