Bulgaria authorises flight to repatriate Russian citizens

Bulgaria has authorised what was described in an official Transport Ministry statement as a “humanitarian” flight to repatriate Russian citizens, according to a March 2 statement by the ministry.

The flight is to take place on March 3 in spite of Bulgaria having announced on February 26 a ban on Russian air carriers from its air space. That was followed by on February 27 the EU as a whole banning overflight of EU air space and access to EU airports by Russian carriers of all kinds.

The ban by Bulgaria, along with a reciprocal ban by Russia of Bulgarian aircraft, has left large numbers of Russian tourists stranded in places such as Bulgaria’s mountain resort of Bansko.

The Bulgarian Transport Ministry said that the flight would be from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport to Sofia, returning to the same airport in the Russian capital.

Operated by Russian air carrier Rossiya Airlines, the flight would be by a Boeing 737-800, the Transport Ministry said.

It said that the relevant European Union services had been informed about the exceptional granting of an operational permit by Bulgaria’s General Aviation Administration.

The ministry said that permission for the flight had been granted on condition that the aircraft should arrive with no passengers, that the repatriation flight should carry only citizens and residents of Russia, with no connecting flights outside Russia, the flight may not be included in the reservation system and tickets cannot be sold for it, and all passengers who will be repatriated via the flight should be identified by the local consulate.

The flight comes as hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing Ukraine, some to Bulgaria, as a result of the invasion of Ukraine by Russian military forces acting on the orders of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The government in Kyiv has said that more than 2000 civilians have died as a result of Russian weaponry hitting civilian targets in major cities in Ukraine.

For the rest of The Sofia Globe’s continuing coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, please click here.

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