Permission from the government in Kyiv will be necessary for direct air communication between Armenia and Crimea, Ukrainian Ambassador Ivan Kukhta warned on Wednesday, reacting to media reports about an imminent launch of regular commercial flights between Yerevan and Simferopol.
An Armenian government official last week said that a Russian regional airline had not been allowed to launch controversial flights from and to the Ukrainian peninsula that was annexed by Russia earlier this year.
Ruben Grdzelian, a spokesman for the Armenian government’s Civil Aviation Department, said on Friday that the Russian airline submitted “flawed documents” to Yerevan, but added that it could again apply for flight permission soon.
Nevertheless, the Grozny Air carrier based in the Russian autonomous republic of Chechnya seemed to be pressing ahead with the launch of the regular service. One of its senior executives, Timur Shimayev, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) last week that the inaugural flight is scheduled for November 17.
Tickets for the flight can already be purchased from Grozny Air’s website and travel agencies in Yerevan. The company has assigned a number to the flight which would be carried out by a Russian-made Yakovlev-42 aircraft.
A senior Crimean official cited by the Russian Interfax news agency also announced the impending launch of the flights last Thursday.
“Naturally, the Ukrainian Embassy immediately reacted to the media reports. I held meetings at Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also met with the head of the Head Department of Civil Aviation of Armenia. Today I can clearly say that the Armenian authorities have stated: no one has given permission for direct Yerevan-Simferopol flights,” the Ukrainian ambassador said.
Kukhta added that according to international regulations, the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization and bilateral documents signed between Ukraine and Armenia “all regular flights that are operated from Ukraine to Armenia and vice versa must been agreed only at an official level, through diplomatic channels.”
Talking to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) today, British Ambassador to Armenia Katherine Jane Leach said that launching commercial flights to Crimea is not something that they would want to encourage. According to her, such flights would only legitimize the Black Sea peninsula’s current pro-Russian leadership.
“Our approach is to ask our friends and partners not to take actions which would legitimize the current authorities in Crimea. So, I think we would be very pleased if a flight does not take place between Armenia and Crimea. It is not something that we would want to encourage,” Leach said.
German Ambassador to Armenia Reiner Morell, meanwhile, called for a dialogue between the parties involved to find a solution that would both meet the political interests of governments and address the needs of ordinary people. “I think that the best way to solve problems is negotiations,” the German diplomat said.
Since Crimea was annexed by Russia in the wake of the February change of government in Kyiv nearly all international flights from and to the breakaway peninsula have been suspended. The Simferopol-Yerevan flights operated by a Ukrainian airline several times a week were also terminated then.
Last March Armenia was among a dozen or so members of the United Nations that voted against a resolution upholding the territorial integrity of Ukraine and declaring Crimea’s secession vote invalid. Armenia did not explicitly recognize Crimea as Russian territory, but its vote at the UN sparked a diplomatic row between Yerevan and Kyiv, with Ambassador Kukhta temporarily recalled from Yerevan at one point.