By Ana Maria Touma
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister was forced to cancel his visit to Moldova on Friday, after Romania banned his airplane from flying into their airspace, forcing it to land in Minsk instead.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was forced to cancel a controversial visit to Moldova on Friday, after Romania reportedly denied his S7 plane access to its airspace, forcing it to land in Minsk, Belarus.
The Russian official has been banned from traveling to the European Union since March 2014, when he backed the Russian annexation of Crimea.
Romanian aviation authorities refused to confirm or deny that they had refused access to the Russian plane.
The visit had also caused controversies in Moldova, where the pro-European government in Chisinau had warned Rogozin that he would not be welcome.
The Russian official was scheduled to arrive in Chisinau on Friday at the invitation of Moldova’s pro-Russian President, Igor Dodon.
The two dignitaries had planned on Saturday to mark the 25th anniversary of the Russian peacekeeping mission in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria together with separatist leader Vadim Krasnoselsky.
However, Rogozin’s flight was delayed for two hours because airport authorities in Chisinau notified Moscow that they would not permit the S7 airplane with the Russian delegation to land.
The plane took off nevertheless, but, after it reached Hungarian airspace, started to circle and was later redirected to Minsk, Belarus, to refuel, according to the Moscow Airport authorities.
Ukraine, which is the other option for a Russian aircraft to reach Moldova, has also banned Russian military aircraft from flying over its territory since conflict broke out in its eastern regions.
The Moldovan Democratic Party-led government warned Rogozin last week that his visit to Moldova would be inappropriate and that any Russian military delegation would be prevented from landing at Chisinau airport.
The Moldovan government banned Russian military from transiting its territory in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea. However, commercial flights are allowed.
On Thursday night, Moldovan border authorities at Chisinau airport also refused to allow entry to ten Russian artists on their way to Transnistria, where they said they were on a “charity mission”. Police also refused entry to Moldova to Russian MP Pavel Shperov, a member of Russia’s nationalist Liberal Democrat Party, led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky.
The Transnistrian Foreign Ministry said the ban on the entry to Moldova of Russian artists and politicians highlighted the provocative attitude of the Moldovan authorities towards Russia and its peacekeeping role in the region.
Moldovan President Dodon has condemned the ruling party and government for its attitude and had announced that he intended to receive Rogozin.
He met the Russian ambassador, Farit Muhametshin, on Friday morning to reassure him after the incidents at the airport and discuss the schedule of Rogozin’s visit, which included a joint press conference on Friday night.
“This type of behaviour is inacceptable. All those who engage in undermining bilateral relations with the Russian Federation will be identified and there will be a time when they will answer for what they did. Nothing is forgotten and nothing will be forgotten,” Dodon said after the meeting the Russian ambassador.