Nordic countries prepare to shut airspace to Russian planes

An employee of the Finnish airline company Finnair wearing a protective face mask guides a passenger, as according to Finnish Civil Aviation Administration, Finavia, the use of mouth-nose protectors is required of all airport employees who work in the customer interface, at the Helsinki International Airport in Vantaa, Finland May 18, 2020. Lehtikuva/Markku Ulander via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO THIRD PARTY SALES. NOT FOR USE BY REUTERS THIRD PARTY DISTRIBUTORS. FINLAND OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN FINLAND.

Feb 27 (Reuters) - Sweden, Finland and Denmark said they were preparing to close their airspace to Russian planes on Sunday, joining a string of European countries taking this measure after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The moves follow similar closures of airspace of Britain, Poland, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Romania to Russia's aircraft. Baltic countries Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia are also closing their airspace to Russian airliners, while Germany said it was preparing to do so. read more

Iceland has also decided to shut its airspace to Russian air traffic, Icelandic Foreign Minister Thordis Kolbrun Gylfadottir tweeted on Sunday.

"It is now absolutely necessary to proceed with further touch measures to isolate Russia," Swedish EU Minister Hans Dahlgren told public service radio SR.

A European Union-wide ban for Russian flights could be part of a fresh package of sanctions on Moscow to be discussed later on Sunday by the bloc's foreign ministers, an EU official said separately. read more

Dahlgren said such a ban would be the most efficient way to pressure Moscow.

Denmark would also support a cross-EU ban to Russian aircraft, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said in a tweet.

Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications Timo Harakka said in a tweet late on Saturday that Finland, which shares a long land border with Russia, was preparing a similar closure.

Russia's likely countermeasure will heavily hurt Finland's state carrier Finnair .

"If Russia in parallel closes its airspace from Finnish aircrafts, it would have significant impact on Finnair as our Asian traffic would in practice come to a standstill", Finnair spokeswoman told Reuters in an emailed statement on Sunday.

"Going around Russian airspace prolongs flight times so much that it would not be financially possible to operate our Asian flights," she said.

The flag carrier of Sweden and Denmark is SAS (SAS.ST).

Reporting by Maria Ponnezhath and Mrinmay Dey in Bengaluru, Anne Kauranen in Helsinki, Niklas Pollard in Stockholm; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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