Russia Confirms Cut in Belarus Flight Slots

Belarus has notified Russia’s aviation authorities it plans to unilaterally cut the number of Moscow-Minsk flights by Russian airlines from April 13, the Russian Transportation Ministry confirmed on Thursday.

“The Russian side has sent Belarus’ aviation authorities a proposal to immediately meet and continue talks,” the ministry said.

Russia and Belarus are bound by an agreement which stipulates parity in the number of flights made by airlines from both countries. Flights to Moscow are performed by the Belarusian air carrier Belavia. Until recently, Russian airlines had permission to operate four flights a day between the two capitals alongside Belavia.

In late March, Minsk and Moscow became embroiled in a row sparked by S7 airline’s intention to operate one flight a day to Minsk. Belarus agreed but in return demanded Russian flagship Aeroflot remove one flight a day from its schedule.

The countries failed to settle the dispute quickly and on March 26 air links between the two ex-Soviet republics were suspended. Russia revoked Belavia’s flight authorization and Minsk immediately retaliated with a similar ban on all Russian airlines.

On the same day, Russia and Belarus agreed on resumption of flights for several days and subsequently until May 10. Both sides want to continue negotiations.

The Russian airlines have already received warnings from the Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) and the Transportation Ministry that only four flights will be made by both sides a day from April 13.

The Russian ministry expressed surprise at Belarus’ actions, saying a preliminary agreement between the sides included permission to make five flights a day, and adding that it “regrets that the restriction is being introduced on the eve of Victory Day” when veterans travel to memorial sites.

Russia has previously offered to lift all restrictions on the frequency of flights, a proposal rejected by Belarus, which insists that its national airlines may suffer from the dominance of Russian airlines.

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