Russian retaliation for Irish airspace ban ‘possible but unlikely’

Nearly all Europe’s airspace to be closed to Russian aircraft as other countries join ban

The Government is to close Irish airspace to all Russian aircraft in response to the country's invasion of Ukraine, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said.

The move comes after the UK Department of Transport barred Russian commercial and civilian aircraft from British airspace on Friday in an escalation of measures against the Kremlin.

It was followed later on Sunday by an announcement that Russian aircraft would be banned from all EU airspace as part of a wide-ranging package of sanctions.

Russian state media outlets will be banned from broadcasting in the EU, and the EU will fund the purchase of military equipment for the Ukrainian army, the first time it has taken such a step for a third country.


In a Sunday morning tweet, Mr Coveney announced the Government’s plan after referring to “shocking” overnight Russian attacks in Ukraine.

“Ireland will move to shut off Irish airspace to all Russian aircraft. We encourage other EU partners to do the same,” he said.

A ban on Russian aircraft in Irish airspace will affect Russian aircraft flying over Ireland and any direct flights into the country. The Irish Aviation Authority will enforce the measure.

Mr Coveney also tweeted that the Government supported the “new wide-ranging sanctions”.

‘Possible’ retaliation

The ban will only apply to Irish territorial airspace. Russian aircraft will still be permitted to fly in airspace controlled by Irish air traffic control, an area that extends well into the Atlantic.

Military sources said it was possible, though unlikely, that Russian military planes would conduct flights along the edges of Irish airspace in retaliation for the Government’s move.

In such cases, RAF jets would probably be dispatched to escort the Russian aircraft from the area as Ireland has no military aircraft capable of the task. Russian bombers have operated off Ireland’s west coast on several previous occasions with their transponders turned off, posing a serious danger to civilian air traffic.

Other countries have joined the ban on Russian aircraft from their skies, cutting the country off from almost all of Europe’s airspace.

Belgium, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, the Balkan states, Romania, Bulgaria and Iceland have all closed their airspace to Russian planes, while France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have said they plan to introduce similar bans.

Last Thursday, following the invasion of Ukraine, the UK government banned Russia's national airline, Aeroflot, from landing in Britain. The airline suspended flights to London and Dublin until May 23rd in response.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times