EU ups the ante with Russia; closes airspace, bans media

The European Union has announced sweeping new sanctions against Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, closing its airspace to Russian aircraft and banning Russian state media outlets broadcasting in the bloc.

EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, announcing the measures on Sunday, said the Union was taking the unprecedented step of financing arms to Ukraine, and was hitting Russian ally Belarus with sanctions for facilitating the invasion.

“They won’t be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU. Including the private jets of oligarchs,” von der Leyen said of the airspace measures in a tweet.

Individual EU countries have been announcing bans on Russian planes in their airspace in recent days.

The UK has additionally banned Russian airlines from landing at its airports or crossing its airspace, meaning Moscow is facing a near total blockade of the continent’s skies.

The measures come on top of sanctions von der Leyen announced a day earlier that are about to be implemented: cutting some Russian banks from the SWIFT interbank messaging network, banning all transactions with Russia’s central bank, and added restrictions on Russian oligarchs.

The EU has also sanctioned Russian President Vladimir Putin and his foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.

Together, the steps added up to the toughest stance the EU has taken against a country, reflecting the bloc’s horror and anger at Putin’s assault on Ukraine, launched on Thursday.

“As the war in Ukraine rages on, and Ukrainians fight bravely for their country, the European Union steps up once more its support for Ukraine and the sanctions against the aggressor – Putin’s Russia,” von der Leyen said in a broadcast address.

She said the airspace ban would prohibit flights into or over the EU by “every Russian plane – and that includes the private jets of oligarchs”.

The measure consolidated what was already de facto largely in place, with many of the EU’s 27 nations individually announcing airspace closures to Russian flights.

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