Bulgarian Skies Bar Lavrov's Plane, Accusations of 'Malice' by Russia's Spokeswoman

Politics | November 30, 2023, Thursday // 08:57
Bulgaria: Bulgarian Skies Bar Lavrov's Plane, Accusations of 'Malice' by Russia's Spokeswoman

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov arrived last night in the capital of North Macedonia, Skopje, for the meeting of his colleagues from the countries of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as his plane bypassed Bulgaria. Although the sanctions regime allows the admission of persons punished by the EU on business trips, there were comments for several days whether the skies above the country could and should be opened on this occasion.

The reason seems to be the presence on board the plane of the spokeswoman of the foreign ministry, Maria Zakharova. She wrote in her Telegram channel that the flight through Bulgaria is impossible, since the country's permission does not apply to her personally. "A plane can fly over Bulgaria, but Maria Zakharova cannot fly on the plane," she explained.

Foreign Minister Mariya Gabriel stated a few days ago that Bulgaria will allow the plane, but has control over who is on board.

But what Zakharova wrote about Bulgaria disputes this, and quite emotionally:

"The vicious stupidity of the Russophobes reached the point that for the first time in our history the official authorities forbade not a plane, but a person in the plane, to be in the sky - this is what is written in the official note of the Bulgarian MFA: A plane can fly over Bulgaria, but Maria Zakharova cannot fly on the plane.

Nothing was said about whether I could fly over Bulgaria without a plane and whether it was possible to use outer space for this.

Now seriously. We are not just talking about stupidity, but about the dangerous stupidity of some intriguer in the power structures of Bulgaria.

The fact is that the rules of air traffic are regulated by the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1944. It prescribes that the territory of a country should be understood as "land territories and adjacent territorial waters". Airspace is not included in the concept of "territory". In this regard, even without this, the illegal sanctions of the European Union cannot be extended to the flight by plane of a person who is prohibited from entering the territory of the state.

Did the Bulgarian authorities think that such measures could be applied against thousands of NATO functionaries who are on our mirror ban lists? Did they really think about setting a dangerous world precedent? I think not.

Who gave the right to illiterate officials in Sofia to disgrace the Bulgarian people?"

Zakharova's reference to the 1944 convention is incorrect. Article 1 of the International Convention on Civil Aviation (its most recent version is from 2006) states: "The Parties to this Convention recognize that each State has full and exclusive sovereignty over the airspace above its territory."

According to flight tracking services Flightradar24 and FlightAware, Lavrov's plane (RSD308) flew from Russia over the Black Sea, then over the territory of Turkey and Greece, before entering the airspace of North Macedonia.

On November 27, the minister personally, speaking about the possibility of participating in the meeting, said that it depends on whether Bulgaria will open its airspace to Russian planes. From the end of February 2022, the skies of the countries of the European Union are closed to aircraft flights from Russia. Bulgaria and Greece are EU members, and North Macedonia joined the EU ban. Skopje also opened its airspace during the meeting so that Lavrov could attend the event.

Four OSCE members - Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - refused to participate in the meeting in Skopje because of Lavrov's personal presence. The countries have accused Russia of "destroying the OSCE", for example by blocking Estonia's candidacy for the presidency next year (currently North Macedonia).

Kyiv's statement called for "saving the OSCE from Russia" and the Baltic states said "Europe needs security from and against Russia, not with it".

Lavrov noted that the OSCE was becoming "an appendage of the EU and NATO" and that the West was using it "in the interest of its selfish policy" - a thesis that Moscow applies to any organization from sports to culture that criticizes its aggressive policies. According to the minister, it is still possible to save the organization, but "the chances are small".

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Tags: Russian, Bulgaria, plane, Zakharova

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