UKRAINE

Kiev denies barring Russian air crew amid rising tensions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2014, 11:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 March, 2014, 11:03pm
AP

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Ukraine has denied an allegation that it had begun barring Russian commercial airline crews from going outside their planes in Ukrainian airports.

Tensions between Moscow and Kiev have been rising since Russian forces occupied the Crimean Peninsula and stayed there throughout the referendum earlier this month where votes overwhelmingly supported Russia's annexation.

Russian authorities previously complained that Ukrainian border guards had singled out Russian men at the frontier and blocked their crossing, fearing that they may be activists coming to stir up unrest.

Russia's foreign ministry said Ukrainian border guards had been forcing cabin crews of Aeroflot, the state-controlled Russian airline, to stay inside their planes. The ministry said the decision violated international law and ultimately "poses a threat to the safety of civil aviation" because the crews cannot rest properly.

The ministry said that it had sent protest notes twice to the Ukrainian embassy in Moscow.

Oleg Slobodian, spokesman for the Ukrainian border service, denied any policy to keep Aeroflot crews on their planes. The only time a crew member was prevented from entry was on March 24, he said, when a passport check revealed that the man had a travel ban. In solidarity, the rest of the crew remained on board with him. Another Russian airline, Transaero, said it had not experienced such problems.