Ukraine authorities on Thursday, 24th Feb 2022 imposed a restriction on flights operated using civil aircraft in its airspace due to “potential hazard”.
The announcement comes hours after a conflict zone monitor warned airlines should stop overflights over the risk of an unintended shootdown or cyber attack.
Ukraine’s authorities issued a NOTAM (notice to airmen) at 0156 GMT on Thursday, which is due to expire at 2359 GMT unless extended.
However, it did not specify whether the restriction was a total ban on civilian flights but Eurocontrol, which coordinates air traffic in Europe, said that Ukraine’s airspace was not available because of military restrictions.
According to flight-tracking website FlightRadar24, an El Al flight from Tel Aviv to Toronto made a sudden U-turn out of Ukraine’s airspace around the time a notice to airmen was issued citing the restrictions
A LOT Polish Airlines flight from Warsaw to Kyiv also turned back to Warsaw around the same time.
The turnarounds came after Safe Airspace, which was set up to provide safety and conflict zone information for airlines after Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine in 2014, said it had increased its risk level to “do not fly”.
“Regardless of the actual movements of Russian forces into Ukraine, the level of tension and uncertainty in Ukraine is now extreme,” Safe Airspace said on its website. “This itself gives rise to significant risk to civil aviation.”
It also warned of the potential for a cyberattack on Ukraine’s air traffic control.