Starting today, Russians trying to go to or from the airport probably won’t be running into too many traffic issues. Last night, the Russian federal air transport agency, Rosaviatsiya, issued a directive grounding the majority of Aeroflot international flights coming and going from most airports. In response, Aeroflot announced that there would be no international flights either incoming or outgoing, except for those of Minsk in Belarus, which has kept its close bonds with Russia. Most domestic flights will continue their normal schedules. Other than that, most of the fleet is grounded. Rosaviatsiya is trying to make this sound like it’s their idea, but the reality is that so much foreign airspace is now blocked to Russian air traffic that’s it’s increasingly difficult to fly anywhere anyway. (Wall Street Journal)
Russian flag carrier Aeroflot said Saturday that it would halt flights abroad as the country’s aviation authority placed limits on what planes could head outside its borders, increasing Russia’s isolation from the global air transport system.
Aeroflot-Russian Airlines PJSC said it is suspending almost all international flights in response to government instructions. The carrier said it would maintain flights to Minsk, the capital of neighboring Belarus that has kept close ties to Russia throughout the conflict and has been used as a staging base for Russian troops. About a quarter of the airline’s 3.5 million passengers in January were on international flights.
The statement from Rosaviatsiya was carefully stage-managed as you would expect. The reason given for the cancelations didn’t mention anything about their nation becoming an international pariah. They cited the danger of their planes being “detained or seized” if they landed in any western cities. Rather than risking having Russian passengers detained and locked up by evil NATO governments (you really can’t make this stuff up), they will play it safe and stay on the ground.
Russia’s second-largest carrier, S7 Airlines, stopped all international flights yesterday. So at this point, there are almost no flights going into or out of Russia. They are barred from all but a few international air traffic routes anyway. The air traffic isolation concept appears to be working as planned.
Is the message starting to get through to the average Russian men and women on the streets? Even without access to social media or any non-state news outlets, they have to be starting to notice that the vast majority of the world is uniting to turn their country into a global pariah, right? There are no flights coming into or out of the country. Their credit cards are about to stop working. The banking system and the stock market have been closed for a week. And their vaunted army seems to be hopelessly bogged down in a battle they were assured was only going to take a few days.
Perhaps reality is starting to sink in. Reuters is reporting that more than 2,500 protesters have been detained in the past couple of days. There have been protests and detentions as far away from Moscow as the Pacific port city of Vladivostok. And there are a lot of family members of Russian soldiers who haven’t received a call from their loved ones in a while because the number of Russians either being killed or taken prisoner is well up into the thousands already.
Surely those people must talk to each other and their neighbors, right? I don’t expect every Russian to suddenly begin hoisting American flags and cursing their own government, but they must understand that things are not as their government claimed by now. It still seems obvious that if Putin’s mad adventure in Ukraine is going to be stopped against his will, it won’t be stopped by NATO and it won’t (fully) be stopped by the Ukrainians. It will be stopped by the Russian people themselves.