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Oct 16, 2020
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Problems out of thin air: why did the US decide to resume civil flights over Crimea

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has notified American airlines of the resumption of flights in the flight information area (FIR) of Simferopol. It is noted that this decision was made in connection with the reduction of risks for the civil aviation of the United States, operating over the Black Sea. The restrictions were introduced in 2014 after the crash of a Boeing 777 of Malaysia Airlines in eastern Ukraine. According to experts, the Americans took these measures largely under pressure from Ukraine, which "continued to consider Crimea its own." At the same time, as analysts note, the security of the airspace over the peninsula over the past years was provided by Russia, and not by the Kiev authorities, as they say in Washington.

The US Federal Aviation Administration, which regulates civil air travel, has made changes to the rules prohibiting flights in certain flight information areas of Simferopol. This is stated in the message of the department, published on the website of the US Federal Register.

It is also clarified that some of the restrictions for American aviation companies regarding flights over Simferopol will remain.

"While the FAA expects Russia to continue to make illegitimate territorial claims and to support competing air navigation service providers with Ukraine, Ukraine has demonstrated that it remains committed to taking the necessary steps to mitigate remaining flight safety risks in the Simferopol air area," the document says. ...

The notice notes that the changes will take effect on October 27 this year. At the same time, the US Federal Aviation Administration explained that, despite the "stabilization" of the situation, flights in the Dnepropetrovsk air zone will continue to be limited.

"In the Dnepropetrovsk FIR, the possibility of an unintentional threat to civil aviation remains, which is associated with the ongoing conflict, including local clashes and the likelihood of larger-scale hostilities in the eastern part of the Dnepropetrovsk FIR," the document emphasizes.

Recall that the order to restrict flights for American airlines over Simferopol was issued by the American department in April 2014 - after Crimea became part of the Russian Federation. On July 18, 2014, the restriction was extended to the flight information area of ​​Dnepropetrovsk after the crash in eastern Ukraine of a Boeing 777 of Malaysia Airlines, which operated flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.

At this time, in the east of the country, there was an active phase of the armed conflict between the Ukrainian army and the forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk people's republics. Despite the hostilities, the Ukrainian authorities did not close the airspace over Donbass for passenger aircraft.

The disaster killed all 298 people on board: 283 passengers and 15 crew members. Among them were citizens of the Netherlands, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia and several other countries.

Almost immediately after the tragedy, Western media blamed the unrecognized republics and Russia for the incident. Several countries, whose nationals were killed in the disaster, have created a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to investigate the circumstances of the incident. It includes representatives from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium and Malaysia. In addition, Ukraine was involved in the work of the group. Russia was not allowed to the investigation.

In May 2018, the investigation team stated that flight MH17 was shot down by a 9M38 missile for the Buk anti-aircraft missile system, which was allegedly delivered to Donbass from the territory of the Russian Federation.

On the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, July 17, 2019, the Russian Foreign Ministry noted that the JIT investigation from the very beginning was aimed at making Russia exclusively guilty, despite the fact that Moscow interacted with Amsterdam, the Dutch Security Council and the Joint Investigation Group.

On October 15, 2020, the Russian Foreign Ministry announced the impossibility of further participation in the consulting group on the crash of MH17 with Australia and the Netherlands due to their unconstructive position and intention to “continue the vicious path of unilaterally blaming Russia for what happened in the skies over Donbas”.

According to analysts, MH17 crashed due to the fact that Kiev did not close the airspace in the conflict zone. At the same time, since then there has been no danger for flights near the Russian Crimea, military expert Yuri Knutov emphasized in an interview with RT.

"The ban on US aviation flights was caused by pressure from Ukraine, which continued to consider Crimea its own and, accordingly, illegal any flights there without the permission of the Ukrainian government," he recalled.

Air control

The notification from the Federal Aviation Administration indicates that the aviation authorities of Ukraine have taken measures that allegedly helped to reduce the risks associated with flight safety, as evidenced by the safe flights of non-US civilian carriers on the Black Sea air routes for more than two years.

“Therefore, according to the Federal Administration, these measures have sufficiently reduced the threat to civil aviation operating on routes in the Black Sea airspace, which allows the resumption of American civil aviation flights on them,” the department noted.

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  • © Alexey Pavlishak

In turn, the deputy of the State Duma of the Russian Federation from the peninsula Ruslan Balbek, commenting on the decision of the American aviation regulator, noted that the safety of flights in the Simferopol zone is the merit, rather, of the Russian authorities, and not of Ukraine.

“Ukrainian bellicose statements about the dominance of the Ukrainian Air Force over Crimea gave foreign airlines a reason to think about the dangers of using the airspace over Crimea. But seeing that any provocations near the peninsula are strictly suppressed, up to the use of weapons against violators, he convinced everyone that Russia guarantees the safety of flights in its airspace, "RIA Novosti quoted him as saying.

According to Vladimir Shapovalov, deputy director of the Institute of History and Politics at Moscow State Pedagogical University, it is difficult to interpret the decision of the American regulator, since "there are no risks of flights in the Simferopol area, as well as over any territory of the Russian Federation."

“There is a large air flow from countries that use Russian airspace for their flights, since this does not imply any risks, because Russia complies with all the norms of international law in this regard. This decision of the United States has nothing to do with any real processes, since now and in recent years, the airspace over Crimea, Simferopol was absolutely reliable in terms of flight safety, "Shapovalov emphasized in an interview with RT.

Flying over a particular territory assumes responsibility for the lives of people, which falls on the countries involved in this process, the expert explained.

“Crimea is the territory of the Russian Federation, therefore, the airspace over the peninsula is under the jurisdiction of Russia, therefore there can be no talk of any cooperation with Ukraine - it simply does not make sense,” the political scientist believes.

In his opinion, in the future, the West will have to recognize that Crimea is a constituent entity of the Russian Federation, and taking this fact into account, regulate its activities, including in the field of civil aviation.

“Sooner or later, the hypocritical policy pursued by the United States and Europe will retreat before the reality in which the peninsula is part of the Russian Federation, this is the expression of the will of the Crimean people. And the situation there is absolutely stable, it allows for economic contacts, tourist activities, air flights, ”the expert concluded.

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