Polish closure of its airspace for the plane of the Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu will not go without an “appropriate response” as it caused a “real threat to flight safety,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry has stated.
The diplomatic standoff on Friday took hours to resolve after Poland refused to grant free passage to Shoygu's plane as he was returning from celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Slovakian national uprising that took place in the town of Banská Bystrica.
An hour after the TU-154 left Slovakia, the flyover in Polish airspace was suddenly refused due to the plane’s changed status. On the way to the celebrations, Poland designated the minister’s flight as civilian, while on the way back, it was changed from civil to military – for “unknown reasons”, according to Poland's state air navigation services agency. Under non-civilian status, crossing Polish airspace requires at least a 72 hours’ notice before the flight.
The plane had to be grounded in Bratislava in what the Russian Foreign Ministry called an “outrageous incident”, while Poland cited “technical reasons” for not allowing the plane through.
“Russian delegation had to urgently return to Bratislava due to lack of fuel, which created a real threat to the safety of flight,” the ministry said in a statement.
Only after a “vigorous demarche” from Russian diplomats, Warsaw agreed to confirm the permit previously issued to fly over the territory of Poland.
As the plane safely returned to Moscow, Russia called Poland's actions “a gross violation of the norms and ethics of communication” and in the context of the celebrations of Slovakia's triumph over Nazism, a “blasphemous trick against the historical memory and the merits of those who saved Europe from fascism.”
The statement promises an “appropriate reaction from the Russian side,” as the Polish FM claims that politics were not involved.
“In terms of the flight by Russian Defense Minister over Poland, there is no political overtones. It was only about procedural issues,” Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski was quoted by Itar-Tass.
The UN meanwhile urged both sides of the incident to refrain from “provocative actions,” a spokesman for UN Secretary General Stephane Dujarric said linking the flight bar to the volatile situation in Ukraine.