Putin bans ALL British flights to and from Russia; Nigerian students abandoned in Ukraine call for help

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Russia’s civil aviation authority have on Friday, 25th February, banned UK flights to and over Russia in retaliation for a British ban on Aeroflot.


The move has implications for flights between the UK and Asia, although many airlines – such as British Airways – had already begun avoiding the country’s airspace.


The Kremlin’s decision came after the Department of Transport announced it had barred Russian commercial and civilian aircraft from the UK skies from midnight last night.


Russia’s aviation authority said today: ‘A restriction was introduced on the use of Russian airspace for flights of aircrafts owned, leased or operated by an organisation linked to or registered in the UK.’


The ban took effect from 11:00 am Moscow time (8:00 GMT), it said, and included flights transiting through Russian airspace. Dailymail reports.


Explaining the significance of the move, aviation analyst Alex Macheras tweeted: ‘UK airlines rely on Russian airspace for flights to the Far East, including South Korea, Japan, and China.

‘[There will be] costly rerouting & extra flight times ahead for airlines as aircraft will now track south, across the Middle East.


‘Russian airspace is one of the most expensive in the world (for overflight) and airlines pay Russian govt a lot for its use, so Russia loses here too.’


Meanwhile, the UK Department of Transport issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) announcing its ban would affect all aircraft ‘owned, chartered or operated by a person connected with Russia’.


This encompasses commercial aircraft, such as those operated by Russian flag carrier Aeroflot – but also private planes used by oligarchs.


The ban includes airspace over the UK’s territorial seas – although it will not prevent jets flying outside the 12-mile territorial limit.


It will start at midnight and will continue until 11.59pm on May 23.


The Civil Aviation Authority told MailOnline yesterday: ‘Following the announcement by the Prime Minister in Parliament today, the UK Civil Aviation Authority has suspended the foreign carrier permit held by Aeroflot Russia Airlines (Aeroflot) until further notice.


‘This means that Aeroflot will not be permitted to operate flights to or from the United Kingdom until further notice.’


MailOnline has approached the Department of Transport for a comment.


Earlier, Ben Wallace said the UK believes Vladimir Putin intends to seize control of all of Ukraine as the Defence Secretary jibed that Russia’s attack has not gone to plan.


Mr Wallace said it is ‘definitely our view that the Russians intend to invade the whole of Ukraine’ but he claimed Moscow is ‘behind its hopeful timetable’ after encountering fierce resistance.


The Cabinet minister said Russia has already ‘lost over 450 personnel’ and it has ‘not taken any of its major objectives’, leaving Mr Putin behind schedule.


His comments came after Boris Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this morning, as the Prime Minister committed to ‘provide further UK support to Ukraine in the coming days’.


Downing Street said Mr Johnson had told President Zelensky that ‘the world is united in its horror at what Putin his doing’.

Mr Johnson last night held an emergency Cabinet meeting to update ministers on the crisis, telling his senior team that the invasion represented a ‘dark day in the history of our continent’.


The premier said the Russian President’s ‘cynical and brutal’ attack on Ukraine ‘must fail’.


Fresh strikes hit Kiev overnight amid warnings Russian forces are closing in on the capital.


The Ukrainian foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said in a tweet just before 4am that ‘horrific rocket strikes’ hit Kiev in an attack he compared to the city’s 1941 shelling by Nazi Germany.


‘Last time our capital experienced anything like this was in 1941 when it was attacked by Nazi Germany,’ he said.


‘Ukraine defeated that evil and will defeat this one. Stop Putin. Isolate Russia. Sever all ties. Kick Russia out of (everywhere).’


The leaders of the 30 NATO allies nations are due to meet today to determine the West’s next steps against the Kremlin.


They are facing growing pressure to go even further than the sanctions announced yesterday.


Meanwhile, Nigerian students in Ukraine say they are confused and feel abandoned by their country amidst the escalating war between Russia and Ukraine – There are over 4,000 Nigerian students studying in Ukraine.


Nigerians studying in the Eastern Ukrainian country say they feel let down.


A Nigerian student at Lviv National Medical University, Ukraine, Anjola Philips, told PREMIUM TIMES, on Wednesday, that although the Nigerian embassy was ‘responsive’, students had no information on what to do should a full-blown war ensue.


“We do not know what is happening, we see other nations organising flights for their people. I think it will be good to know if we have a place of convergence, we have no idea and people are asking if they should start returning home.


“The embassy is responsive anytime we reach out to them but it is the same response every time, which leaves me wondering if there are no plans for the worst-case scenario,” Mr Philips, the president of the Nigerian students union in Lviv, said.


He noted that the situation on the ground is one of great uncertainty. “No one knows what is our fate as Nigerian students here. We just get things online and we try to feel the pulse of the school administration and the locals. Lviv is pretty safe, everybody is going about their business…”


“Some days ago, the school sent out information that students could go back to their houses with the exception of students who had professional examinations. We are still trying to get further clarification from the school on why this group is exempted.


“The issue is we do not have any direction from the Nigerian embassy, I reached out to them and was told to keep checking the website for information. They said they will update us with more information if they receive any. The last update on their website was on January 26, asking us to call the embassy in case of emergency,” he said.


The Nigerian embassy in Ukraine on Thursday released a statement saying Nigerians in Ukraine should essentially defend themselves.

“The embassy urges Nigerian nationals resident in Ukraine to remain calm but be very vigilant and be responsible for their personal security and safety,” the Nigerian Embassy in Kyiv, Ukraine said in a statement shared on Twitter by the Nigerians in Diaspora Commission (NIDCOM).


Felix Ogunlade, a recent graduate of Ternopil National Medical University who lives in Kyiv awaiting his medical licence examination, said that that between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. Thursday morning, he heard three explosions go off.


“When I heard the first explosion, I thought I was hallucinating due to the panic and then there were multiple explosions, it sounded like fireworks. I was not sure until my housemates confirmed they heard the same thing.”


Mr Ogunlade noted that as residents were scampering out of their apartments in fear, he tried to find his way out to Lviv or anywhere in the western part of Ukraine which is still safe but there was no means of transportation out of the city.


“There was no Uber or train available this morning when we first checked. But we found a train for tomorrow that had 300 seats when we checked but before we could mobilise other Nigerians and return to book, it was filled up. This was about 20 to 30-minute interval,” he said.


He said, “some affirmative message or communication (from the Nigerian embassy) would help his confidence at the moment.”


Mr Ogunlade spoke minutes before the statement by the Nigerian embassy.


In Ternopil, a six hours drive from Kyiv (Ukraine’s capital), Jessica Orakpo, president of Nigerian students in Ternopil National Medical University said the embassy “has basically said we are on our own.”


Ms Orakpo said “we received a letter few minutes ago asking us to remain calm and before today when the threats started, I called the ambassador and he said he could not ask us to go home but people who wanted to could but he would not be quoted as asking Nigerians to go home.”


According to Ms Orakpo, a lot of Nigerians are now stuck in Ternopil because earlier on when some foreign students were appealing for online learning given the rising tension, the school said it could only do that if the foreign embassies wrote them (school) asking for such for their citizens.


“We reached out to our embassy to put pressure on schools but our embassy said they could not do anything saying they could not help our school make that decision. Now the case has become worse, we cannot travel, most airlines have cancelled flights, the embassy is not saying anything. We are literally fending for ourselves.”


She noted the ambassador said he could only provide relief funds but could not intervene in the school’s decision making.


“India brought their letter but Ghana and Nigeria’s letters were not issued and that was when I called and they said they could not infringe on the decision-making process of our school, that it has never been done.

“And if our school wants that kind of letter from them, our school should write to them. It became a game of diplomacy, nobody wants to take responsibility for asking Nigerians to go home.”


Although Ternopil is relatively safe, the panic in the air is palpable as schools have been shut, residents are panic buying and flights cancelled, she said.


According to Ukraine’s Ministry of Education and Science in 2020, of the 76548 international students in Ukraine, 4,227 are Nigerians, the fifth-highest international student population.


Nigeria’s Inaction

As world leaders condemned and issued sanctions on Russia, Nigeria has not stated its position and has remained quiet in offering any form of clear advisory to its citizens. The most it had done before the Thursday statement was the January statement asking Nigerians living in Ukraine to take their safety seriously and avoid travels to identified hot spots in Eastern Ukraine.


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja is as calm as it could be with different events happening and staffers going about their activities as though the world was at its most peaceful state.


Francisca Omoyuli, she said she could not respond immediately as she was at a two-day event in Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.


An official of the ministry who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES in confidence said students who wanted to be evacuated would need to notify the embassy of their intentions to return home adding that the students should also be able to prove that the security situation in their location was dire and deserving evacuation.


She added that as of Wednesday, the Nigerian embassy in Kyiv had yet to notify the ministry of any alarming situation or need to evacuate Nigerians.


Residents of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv are trooping out of the capital, moving west in search of safer havens.


India is evacuating its students from Ukraine while U.S., Canada and Australia have evacuated most of their citizens from Ukraine.


Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in the early hours of Thursday, 24th February 2022, in a move which represented Moscow’s most aggressive action since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.


By the end of the day, the Ukrainian government said 137 civilians and military personnel had been killed.


Mr Wallace was asked this morning if he believes Russia is intent on taking Kiev and ousting President Zelensky’s government.


He replied: ‘It is definitely our view that the Russians intend to invade the whole of Ukraine.

‘The nonsense they were spouting about the Donbas, as ever with a whole series of dishonest claims, are not the case and that is why you have seen a number of columns of Russian army entering from the south, from the north, from Belarus even and indeed from the separatist region.


‘But our assessment as of this morning is that Russia has not taken any of its major objectives, in fact it is behind its hopeful timetable, they have lost over 450 personnel and indeed as you have said on your report, one of the significant airports they were trying to capture with their elite Spetsnaz has failed to be taken and in fact the Ukrainians have taken it back.


‘So I think contrary to great Russian claims and indeed President Putin’s vision that somehow the Ukrainians would be liberated and would be flocking to his cause, he has got that completely wrong and the Russian army has failed to deliver on day one its main objective.’


The Ministry of Defence issued a statement in the early hours of this morning which said ‘it is unlikely that Russia has achieved its planned Day 1 military objectives’.


However, the MOD said it is ‘highly likely’ Russian forces have captured the Chernobyl nuclear power plant – 80 miles north of Kiev and along one of the clearest routes to the capital.


The MOD added: ‘The Ukrainian Armed Forces have reportedly halted Russia’s advance towards Chernihiv. Fighting probably continues on the outskirts of the city.


‘It is unlikely that Russia has achieved its planned Day 1 military objectives. Ukrainian forces have presented fierce resistance across all axes of Russia’s advance.’


Mr Johnson spoke to President Zelensky this morning ‘to express his solidarity with Ukraine’.


Downing Street said: ‘President Zelensky updated the Prime Minister on the most recent Russian military advances, including missile and artillery strikes on Ukrainian cities and the terrible developments in Kyiv in the early hours of this morning.


‘The Prime Minister assured President Zelensky that the world is united in its horror at what Putin his doing. He paid tribute to the bravery and heroism of the Ukrainian people in standing up to Russia’s campaign of violence, and expressed his deep condolences for those who have been killed.


‘The Prime Minister committed to provide further UK support to Ukraine in the coming days as the people of Ukraine and the world continue to demonstrate that Putin cannot act with impunity.’

Mr Johnson convened a late night meeting of his Cabinet yesterday as he told ministers the invasion represented a ‘dark day in the history of our continent with Putin launching a cynical and brutal invasion for his own vainglorious ends’.


The PM said the UK ‘could be proud of the actions it has taken so far, playing a leading role in NATO’ and said the Ukrainian military was ‘fighting back in defiance of Putin’s attempts to subjugate Ukraine’.


Mr Johnson also highlighted protests in Russia against the invasion ‘which demonstrated that Putin’s actions would also face resistance from within his own country’.


Number 10 said: ‘The Prime Minister concluded by saying Putin must fail, and that the UK would work with its allies to achieve the restitution of the sovereignty of Ukraine.’


Mr Johnson yesterday unveiled ‘unprecedented’ sanctions against Russian banks, firms and oligarchs as he vowed to cripple ‘bloodstained aggressor’ Mr Putin.


The PM announced 10 separate strands of measures to inflict ‘significant’ impact on Moscow’s economy – with officials saying they should knock several percentage points off its GDP.


Mr Johnson told MPs Mr Putin was flouting ‘every principle of civilised behaviour’ and will ‘never be able to cleanse the blood of Ukraine from his hands’ – even though Ukrainians are ‘offering a fierce defence’.


He insisted the world now saw the Russian president for what he is: ‘A bloodstained aggressor who believes in imperial conquest.’


The assets of all major Russian banks – including VTB – will be frozen, while new legislation will block the state and all the country’s major firms from being able to raise money on London markets.


Mr Johnson pointed out that half Russia’s trade is currently in dollars and sterling.


The Government says over 100 people, entities and subsidiaries will be subject to sanctions, including defence giant Rostec. There will be travel bans and asset restrictions on five more named individuals – including Kirill Shamalov, Russia’s youngest billionaire and previously married to Putin’s daughter.


Sources swiped that they would no longer be able to shop in Harrods or send children to public schools, and had become ‘essentially persona non grata in every major Western capital’.


Ministers intend to put a fixed limit on how much Russian nationals can have in accounts in the UK. Aeroflot planes will be immediately prevented from landing anywhere in Britain, while crucial defence exports of semi-conductors and aircraft spare parts will end.

The PM is also committing to shut Russia out of the SWIFT international financial messaging system, although that still has to be thrashed out with other Western powers.


And the Government is aiming to extend all the measures to Belarus, which has joined Russia in the invasion.


Mr Johnson said it was ‘the largest and most severe package of economic sanctions that Russia has ever seen’.


Officials said the UK was taking a ‘maximalist’ approach to sanctions and would look to go further where possible.


Some of the measures come in immediately, but others could take weeks and will need legislation.

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