Russia threatens to block overflights between Europe, Asia

Russia threatens to block overflights between Europe, Asia

Moscow (AFP) - Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev warned Thursday that Russia could block overflights between Europe and Asia in retaliation for Western sanctions.

Medvedev said the Russian government was considering a series of measures in response to Western sanctions that shut down the country's first low-cost airline.

"First is a ban on using the airspace of our country for transit flights by European and US airlines in the ... Asia-Pacific region," said Medvedev.

"Of course this is a severe measure. Nevertheless, we need to mention it," he added.

Medvedev repeated the threat as he ordered bans on major food products from the European Union and United States in response to their sanctions over Russian policy in Ukraine.

Aeroflot's low-cost subsidiary Dobrolet which flew to Crimea, annexed by Russia in March, said at the weekend it was forced to ground all of its flights because of EU sanctions hitting its leases for Boeing aircraft.

The ban could hurt European airlines such as Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France and Finnair that operate many long-haul routes to Asia.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch estimated earlier this week that using other longer routes could add around $30,000 (22,400 euro) per flight in higher fuel and operating costs.

It also noted that Russia's top airline Aeroflot, which receives the fees gathered from European airlines for the overflight rights, would be sent into a financial tailspin by such a ban.

It estimated those fees bring in around $250-$300 million per year for Aeroflot, or a third of the company's operating profit.

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