On Wednesday and Thursday, the French airline Air France had to cancel flight AF1145 from Paris to Moscow.

He shouldn't go on Friday either.

On Thursday flight OS601 of the Austrian airline Austrian Airlines from Vienna to Moscow was canceled.

The reason in each case was that a new route that bypasses Belarus was not approved.

Many airlines have been doing this since the forced diversion of Ryanair flight FR4978 last Sunday, following a conclusion of the European Council.

Friedrich Schmidt

Political correspondent for Russia and the CIS in Moscow.

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    Stephan Löwenstein

    Political correspondent based in Vienna.

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      Many observers suspected that Russia wanted to punish the EU and Western airlines in this way and back the ally's regime.

      But so far nothing speaks in favor of a Russian plan to force the use of Belarusian airspace.

      Other airlines, which are now also bypassing Belarus, landed in Moscow without any problems.

      So the German Lufthansa.

      Due to the pandemic, no regular air traffic yet

      In Russia, it was emphasized that, unlike Germany, for example, there is still no regular air traffic with France and Austria due to the pandemic. Therefore, the flights would have to be coordinated individually with the Russian air traffic control. A source for Forbes magazine explained the denial of the new route for technical reasons; the new routes were not approved in time. The business portal The Bell, on the other hand, quoted a source on Thursday evening according to which the thesis of a technical justification was not credible. This would take a maximum of three hours. But, it was said, there was nothing to suggest that it was a political decision "from the very top". What happened is more likely to be explained by a desire at a lower level to protect oneself.

      The Polish LOT and the Dutch KLM also flown around Belarus and landed in Moscow, although Russia has not yet operated regular air traffic with Poland and the Netherlands.

      The Russian news portal RBK reported on Thursday evening, citing a source in the Ministry of Transport, that Russian air traffic control would soon allow European airlines to fly to Russia and bypass Belarus.

      EU wants to review the procedure

      The EU announced on Friday that it would examine whether Russia would deliberately refuse to land those European airlines that do not want to cross Belarusian airspace.

      It is unclear whether Russia decides on a case-by-case basis or whether it is a “general procedure” to force European airlines to fly over Belarus, said EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell to journalists in Lisbon on Friday.

      There are already "a few cases" where European planes either failed to land or could not take off, he said.

      First of all, the situation has to be assessed and awaited.

      "With Russia there is always the risk of escalation."

      In Austria, meanwhile, there are protests against the fact that Russia refused permission for the Austrian Airlines flight on Thursday because the airline wanted to bypass Belarus in accordance with EU resolutions.

      "The Russian reaction is absolutely incomprehensible to us," said the Foreign Ministry in Vienna.

      Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg called on Moscow "to provide clarification here and not artificially obstruct free air traffic between Russia and Europe."

      Russian reaction is "disproportionate"

      The fact that airlines based in the EU should avoid flights via Belarus is a reaction “to the unprecedented act of brutal air piracy last weekend. This was about the EU's legitimate security concerns, ”said Schallenberg in a statement. Because flight connections to and via Russia are not affected in this way, the Russian reaction is disproportionate. Schallenberg's appeal had an effect. According to the airline, the Russian authorities have given permission for at least one Austrian Airlines return flight on Friday. The flight route does not lead via Bel. However, the permits for further passenger flights are still pending.

      On Thursday and Friday, Austrian Airlines' cargo flights from Vienna to Nanjing, China, were canceled because the Russian authorities did not issue the approval required to change flight routes.

      On Monday, however, an Austrian Airlines flight Vienna-Moscow and back was able to fly around Belarus without any problems.

      The Russian ambassador in Vienna presented the cancellations as a purely technical question for which the flight authorities were solely responsible.

      Any "politicization" of the process is inadmissible and endangers the safety of flights and passengers, it said on Thursday evening on the embassy Facebook page.

      It is in the interests of both countries that the flight connection between Russia and Austria is completely restored as soon as possible.