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Europe: Russia extends flight restrictions as of Nov. 15 /update 94 – Crisis24

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As of Nov. 15, Russia has extended flight restrictions until Nov. 21. Furthermore, Belarus authorities have announced increased security measures along its border with Ukraine, and Microsoft and other cyber analysts have highlighted intensifying Russian cyberattacks targeting Ukraine and Poland.
On Nov. 11, Russia’s Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsiya) extended the suspension of flight operations at 10 airports in southwestern parts of the country and at one airport in Russian-annexed Crimea until at least Nov. 21. Impacted facilities include Anapa Airport (AAQ), Belgorod International Airport (EGO), Bryansk International Airport (BZK), Elista International Airport (ESL), Gelendzhik Airport (GDZ), Krasnodar International Airport (KRR), Kursk Vostochny Airport (URS), Lipetsk Airport (LPK), Rostov-on-Don Airport (RVI), and Voronezh International Airport (VOZ) in Russia, in addition to Simferopol International Airport (SIP) in Russian-annexed Crimea. The measure was previously slated to expire Nov. 15.
Travel Restrictions
Authorities in Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, and the Czech Republic have imposed restrictions on Russian citizens who hold Schengen tourist and work visas from entering their countries. Exceptions apply in different countries, including for humanitarian reasons, for dissidents, family members of EU citizens, residence permit holders, the movement of goods, diplomatic missions, and transit to and from the Kaliningrad exclave.
The EU has suspended the EU-Russia visa facilitation agreement; however, the bloc has rejected calls from some nations for an outright ban on Russian citizens traveling to Europe.
Russia has banned certain categories of EU officials from entering the country in response to EU sanctions and continued weapons shipments to Ukraine. The ban includes unspecified senior EU military officials, senior law-enforcement officials, and representatives of European defense companies involved in delivering military equipment to Ukraine.
Several governments, including those of the US, France, the UK, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, and Poland have issued travel advisories calling on their nationals to avoid travel to Russia and for those currently in that country to depart by commercial means when it is safe to do so.
Heightened Security and General Disruptions
As of Nov. 15, Belarus authorities announced enhanced security measures on its border with Ukraine. Additional special units, as well as special-purpose police units, have been introduced in the 14 districts of the Brest and Gomel regions.
Russian President Putin issued a decree raising alert levels nationwide Oct. 20. The alert levels by region are as follows:
Martial law has been declared in the four Ukrainian regions Moscow claims to have annexed: Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson.
A “medium response regime” has been declared in all regions bordering Ukraine, which includes Krasnodar, Belgorod, Bryansk, Kursk, Voronezh, Rostov, and Russian-annexed Crimea. This grants wide powers to requisition civilian infrastructure and property for defense purposes and allows governors in those regions to impose movement restrictions and evacuations, and implement measures to protect public order.
A “high readiness level” has been implemented in all remaining regions in the Southern and Central federal districts, which includes Moscow. Governors in these regions may restrict and inspect traffic and requisition civilian infrastructure to meet the needs of the armed forces.
A “basic readiness level” has been implemented in all other regions, requiring increased security at military and government facilities, and key infrastructure.
Protests took place across Russia against the nation’s partial military mobilization in late September and early October, but have reduced in recent weeks since officials announced that the conscription has ended. Mobile enlistment offices remain in operation at border crossings with Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Finland, in an effort to intercept men of fighting age attempting to flee the country. Further protests are possible; security forces will almost certainly deploy heavily to any such gatherings that may materialize.
Regional authorities in Russia have implemented a “high” (yellow) terror threat level in regions bordering Ukraine, including Belgorod, Bryansk, and Kursk oblasts, as well as in the Russian-annexed city of Sevastopol. This is the middle level on a three-tier scale where “increased” (blue) is the lowest level and “critical” (red) is the highest. Cross-border artillery shelling occasionally strikes border villages in Kursk, Belgorod, and Bryansk oblasts, often in response to artillery fire from Russia, and there are reports of covert Ukrainian activity in Russian territory.
Several countries sharing borders with Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia have implemented heightened security. Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, and Lithuania have enacted states of emergency. Nevertheless, Moldova, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary, and Poland are all keeping their borders with Ukraine open and are receiving refugees.
The Latvian government maintains a state of emergency in municipalities bordering Russia, including Aluksne, Balvi, Ludza, Augsdaugava, Kraslava, and Daugavpils. It has closed the Pededze border crossing point with Russia and instructed the State Border Guard to carry out enhanced border surveillance of the Latvian-Russian border.
Ukraine has closed its border checkpoints with Belarus, Russia, and the breakaway Transnistria region of Moldova to foreign nationals; however, Ukrainian citizens are permitted to return. Authorities in Moldova increased security nationwide following a series of security incidents, including explosions and shootings, in the Transnistria region.
Heightened anti-Western sentiment is possible in Russia and Belarus in reaction to the international response to the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. There have been no reported incidents of security threats to Western or other foreign nationals in Russia or Belarus, however low-level harassment, increased scrutiny, or coercion of foreign nationals by officials are all possible.
Cyber Threats
Russian-backed hackers have maintained a constant campaign of cyber attacks against Ukrainian, NATO, EU, and other western entities, principally targeting government and defense-related organizations. As of Nov. 15, cyber security analysts identified Russian military intelligence as becoming more aggressive and more direct in the nature of its attacks. Separately, Microsoft’s Security Threat Intelligence Center has attributed cyber attacks on Ukrainian and Polish transport and security organizations to hackers backed by GRU, Russia’s military intelligence directorate.
Transport Disruptions
The airspace of numerous countries remains closed to all Russian aircraft and flights. Russia has implemented reciprocal bans from Russian airspace for airlines operated by those countries, including EU member nations, the UK, Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Japan. In addition, several airlines not necessarily impacted by the national airspace closures have partially or fully suspended services using Russian airspace.
Belarus has partially closed its airspace, including the southern Brest Region and areas south of Asipovichy and Krichev in Mogilev Region. The EU has banned overflights of its airspace by Belarusian airlines; moreover, numerous airlines are avoiding Belarusian airspace or have suspended overflights of Belarus. Finally, Ukrainian airspace remains closed to all commercial air traffic.
Russia has introduced a ban on road freight transportation for companies based in the EU, Norway, Ukraine, and the UK through Dec. 31. This applies to road freight traveling to Russia, as well as transiting Russia toward third countries. Various goods are exempt from the ban, including meat, fish, milk, some types of vegetables and confectionery, cocoa, grain products, alcohol, fertilizers, pharmaceutical products, contraceptives, paper and cardboard, watches, musical instruments, film and sound recording equipment, and nuclear reactors. The Russian Ministry of Transport has declared that the delivery of goods from these countries by road will be carried out by trans-shipping the freight to domestic carriers in border areas in the Pskov, Kaliningrad, Leningrad, and Murmansk oblasts, the Republic of Karelia, and Saint Petersburg. The regulations do not apply to the Kaliningrad region.
The International Maritime Organization has issued advisories concerning the ongoing danger posed to maritime navigation by drifting sea mines, primarily in the Black Sea’s Northwest, West, and Southwest sectors. Such mines have been discovered in the coastal waters of Turkey, Romania, and Bulgaria. These three countries have proficient naval ordnance disposal teams that typically tow mines to low-traffic areas for safe destruction. International sanctions ban Russian vessels and Russian-operated ships from accessing EU, US, and UK ports.
Russia has resumed its participation in an agreement to ensure safe passage for grain shipments from the Ukrainian ports of Odesa, Chornomorsk, and Yuzhne. Moscow exited the agreement following an Oct. 29 attack on Russian naval vessels anchored off Sevastopol. Russia rejoined the deal after reportedly receiving guarantees from Kyiv that the Armed Forces of Ukraine would not use the shipping channel for military operations against Russia’s forces in the Black Sea. The UN-backed agreement, originally brokered between Russia, Ukraine, and Turkey on July 22, provides for the safe passage of grain and other foodstuffs from Ukraine to an inspection point near Istanbul via a so-called “blue corridor.” The Joint Coordination Center (JCC) in Turkey monitors and implements this accord, which lifted a de facto Russian naval blockade of Ukraine.
Sanctions
A slate of EU economic sanctions is in place against Russia. EU member states have agreed to ban the import from Russia of various goods, including vehicles, textiles, plastic, wood pulp, paper, certain types of machinery and appliances, precious stones, precious metals, leather, and ceramics.
The EU also implemented a list of items prohibited from export to Russia, including electronic components that may be used in the defense and security sectors, possible chemical weapons precursors, firearms, and any goods that may be used for capital punishment. Restrictions on the sale, supply, transfer, or export of additional goods used in the aviation sector have also been imposed. EU sanctions and other restrictions now apply to 1,236 individuals and 115 private and state-owned entities. Russian authorities will likely implement countersanctions or other measures in retaliation.
Previous packages of sanctions target Russian financial institutions, state-owned enterprises, private businesses, and specific individuals using a wide array of measures, including import and export restrictions, financial restrictions, travel bans, and asset freezes.
The EU previously agreed to ban 90 percent of Russian oil imports by the end of 2022. The ban targets oil delivered by tankers; the Russian Druzhba pipeline continues to transfer oil to Hungary and Slovakia. The Czech Republic, which is also served by the Druzhba pipeline, has refused to pay for Russian oil.
Aside from governmental sanctions, hundreds of companies have either suspended or terminated their Russian operations. Financial services, including PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Western Union, have suspended operations in the country. American Express and Western Union have also suspended all operations in Belarus.
Additionally, multiple governments have expelled numerous Russian diplomats on various grounds, including espionage and other national security concerns. Moscow typically retaliates in a similar fashion. Such tit-for-tat moves may reduce available consular services in each country, though core services will likely be maintained while diplomatic missions remain open.
Russia has stopped supplying natural gas to Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, Poland, and Bulgaria. Russian authorities may decide to restrict further or entirely cut off natural gas deliveries to other European countries over the coming weeks.
The Gas Transmission System Operator of Ukraine (GTSOU) has halted gas transit through the Sokhranivka gas metering station and the Novopskov gas compressor station, which are both located in Russian-occupied areas. The volume of Russian gas shipped to Europe via Ukraine has subsequently dropped by around one-third.
Confirm flight status with carriers; do not check out of accommodations until onward travel is confirmed. Avoid nonessential travel to affected border regions. Heed authorities’ instructions; remain calm and cooperative if questioned by law enforcement officers or other officials. Carry proper identification, including a passport with a current Russian or Belarusian visa, if one is required. Prepare for disruptions to card payments in Russia. Ensure alternative payment methods are available. Refrain from discussing the ongoing conflict in Ukraine or other politically sensitive topics, including on social media services.
European Union Aviation Safety Agency
French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs
Russian Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media
UK Travel Advice Russia
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