Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 67

Ukraine has introduced restrictions on Russian military flights over Ukrainian airspace as of March 31, Ukrainian armed forces chief of staff Lt. Gen. Oleksandr Zatynaiko announced yesterday. Zatynaiko disclosed that on March 25 and again on the 26th two Russian Tu-22 military aircraft entered Ukraine’s internationally recognized "zone of responsibility" over the Black Sea, approaching to within two to three kilometers of Ukraine’s offshore Serpents’ Island. On March 28, a group of eight Russian aircraft approached Odessa, repeatedly changing their flight pattern and creating risks of mid-air collisions, thus forcing Odessa International Airport to suspend takeoffs and landings for more than one hour. In all three cases, Ukraine scrambled interceptor airplanes which tailed and photographed the Russian intruders.

Under an arrangement between the two General Staffs, Russian military aircraft are permitted to overfly Ukraine and enter Ukraine’s zone of responsibility in the Black Sea by prior request, subject to Ukrainian clearance. Clearance is requested and granted routinely, Zatynaiko said. But no request had been submitted in these cases, and the Russian pilots in all three incidents refused to respond to the calls of Ukrainian air traffic control centers in Simferopol and Odessa. After each incident, Zatynaiko cabled and attempted to telephone his Russian counterpart, Gen. Viktor Samsonov, but received no response from Moscow.

Zatynaiko remarks seemed to exclude the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s aviation; he indicated that its flights are the only ones not affected by Ukraine’s response measures. Zatynaiko did not spell out the restrictions affecting other Russian military flights. At least some of the Russian airplanes involved appeared to be land-based in Russia. Ukrainian Defense Ministry officials, when first airing their complaints, said that the intruders of March 25 and 26 were long-range reconnaissance airplanes based in Russia’s Saratov region on the Volga.

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