The Foreign Ministry has called Bulgaria’s refusal of airspace to a Russian plane traveling to the OSCE meeting illegal
Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. © Sputnik/Stanislav Krasilnikov
Bulgaria’s decision to refuse airspace to a plane carrying a high-level Russian delegation to an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in North Macedonia can’t be explained by anything other than an irrational desire to step on Moscow’s toes, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has said.
Initially, the Russian plane was supposed to fly over the EU state to bring Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and other officials to the OSCE Ministerial Council in Skopje. However, Sofia refused to allow the aircraft to enter its airspace, citing the presence of Zakharova on board. The spokeswoman has been under EU sanctions since the start of the Ukraine conflict in February 2022.
Despite the unexpected obstacle, Moscow’s delegation still arrived in Skopje, although with a detour via Türkiye and Greece, according to TASS.
Commenting on the diplomatic incident, Zakharova denounced what she called “evil stupidity of Russophobes.” “For the first time in our history, authorities have banned not an airplane, but a person on that airplane from being in the sky,” she wrote on Telegram on Thursday.
“A plane may fly over Bulgaria, but Maria Zakharova in that plane may not,” she added, citing the message from Sofia.
The spokeswoman went on to suggest that this “dangerous stupidity” was caused by intrigues in the Bulgarian leadership, stressing that the decision was a fragrant violation of international law.
She recalled that the issue is regulated by the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation, which defines the territory of a state as its land and sea territories, but not its airspace. “Thus, the already illegal EU sanctions do not apply to the non-stop flight on an aircraft with a person barred from entering the territory of the state,” Zakharova concluded.
The official also chided her Bulgarian counterparts for failing to understand that Russia could take similar measures against numerous sanctioned NATO officials. “And did they think about creating a dangerous world precedent? I think not,” she added.
Echoing Zakharova, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called Bulgaria’s move “absurd,” urging Sofia to “do its best to maintain sobriety.”
He also noted that Lavrov’s visit to the summit – first since December 2021 – would have a busy agenda. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov has already held talks with his Armenian, Hungarian, and Austrian counterparts.