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Air France cancels flights as Russia withholds clearance

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An Air France Airbus A350 airplane lands at the Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Roissy, near Paris, France April 2, 2021. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

MOSCOW, May 31 (Reuters) - Air France (AIRF.PA) cancelled two more flights to Moscow on Monday after Russian authorities failed to approve flight plans that avoid Belarus airspace.

The European Union has urged its airlines to avoid Belarus amid outrage over the forced landing of a Ryanair (RYA.I) jet en route to Lithuania from Greece on May 23 and the arrest of a dissident journalist on board.

"Air France confirms the cancellation of flights AF1154 and AF1654 from Paris-Charles de Gaulle to Moscow on 31 May 2021 as the authorisations from Russian authorities to enter their territory have not been granted," the airline said.

The French airline, part of the broader Air France-KLM group, was forced to cancel two Paris-Moscow flights last week after receiving no Russian clearance for flight plans skirting the territory.

Obstacles to rerouted Air France flights appeared to have been resolved late last week, allowing Air France to carry out two weekend Paris-Moscow services. read more

But the latest setbacks occurred after Air France resubmitted routes avoiding Belarus for approval as part of a seasonal renewal process, an Air France spokesman said.

Russia's federal aviation agency Rosaviatsiya declined to comment on Monday. Russia, Minsk's main ally, warned airlines last week that changes to Europe-Russia routes resulting from the standoff may be subject to longer clearance times.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin in Moscow; writing by Tom Balmforth; editing by Kirsten Donovan

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