NEWS: Ukraine
ULTIMATE INVASION
Airspace closed and in western Russia as Putin orders invasion.

Rus­sia announced the clo­sure of its air­space to civil­ian flights on the west­ern bor­der with Ukraine and Belarus, while Ukraine closed its air­space to civil­ian flights and the Euro­pean avi­a­tion reg­u­la­tor also warned of the dan­gers of fly­ing in the bor­der areas of Rus­sia and Belarus.

The mea­sures on Thurs­day came after Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin announced a spe­cial mil­i­tary oper­a­tion in the Don­bass region.

“The use of air­space on the west­ern bor­der of Rus­sia with Ukraine and Belarus has been tem­porar­i­ly sus­pend­ed due to the strong threat to the safe­ty of civil­ian air­craft flights after the use of weapons and mil­i­tary equip­ment,” said a notice to air­men or notice to air mis­sions ( NOTAM) said.

In anoth­er state­ment Thurs­day, the Russ­ian Defense Min­istry said it was using “high-pre­ci­sion weapons” to dis­able air defense sys­tems, mil­i­tary air­ports and the air force in Ukraine.

Ukraine State Air Traf­fic Ser­vices Enter­prise said on its web­site that the coun­try’s air­space was closed to civil­ian flights from 00:45 GMT on Thurs­day, with air traf­fic ser­vices suspended.

The Euro­pean Union Avi­a­tion Safe­ty Agency (EASA) said air­space in Rus­sia and Belarus with­in 100 nau­ti­cal miles of their bor­ders with Ukraine could also pose safe­ty risks.

“In par­tic­u­lar, there is a risk of both inten­tion­al tar­get­ing and misiden­ti­fi­ca­tion of civ­il air­craft,” the agency said in a con­flict zone bulletin.

“The pres­ence and poten­tial use of a wide range of ground and air­borne war­fare sys­tems presents a high risk to civil­ian flights oper­at­ing at all alti­tudes and flight levels.”

The avi­a­tion indus­try has become more aware of the risks that con­flict pos­es to civ­il avi­a­tion since Malaysia Air­lines Flight MH17 was shot down over east­ern Ukraine in 2014.

EASA said the Russ­ian Defense Min­istry sent an urgent mes­sage to Ukraine warn­ing of a high risk to flight safe­ty due to the use of mil­i­tary weapons and equip­ment as of 00:45 GMT, and asked Ukrain­ian air traf­fic con­trol to halt flights.

On Thurs­day, Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin autho­rized “a spe­cial mil­i­tary oper­a­tion” against Ukraine to elim­i­nate what he called a seri­ous threat, say­ing he aimed to demil­i­ta­rize Rus­si­a’s south­ern neighbor.

In a morn­ing address on state tele­vi­sion, Putin said he had no choice but to launch the oper­a­tion, the scope of which was not imme­di­ate­ly clear but appeared to go well beyond aid­ing Russ­ian-backed sep­a­ratists in east­ern Ukraine.

“I have decid­ed to con­duct a spe­cial mil­i­tary oper­a­tion,” Putin said, sit­ting at a Krem­lin desk next to a bat­tery of phones, the Russ­ian flag behind him.

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