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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

Romania blocks Russian minister's flight because of EU sanctions

Decision leaves deputy prime minister linked to annexation of Crimea fuming

Romania on Friday barred a plane carrying Russia's deputy prime minister from entering its airspace because of an EU travel ban linked to sanctions over the Ukraine crisis.

The passenger aircraft carrying deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin was bound for Moldova's capital Chisinau, but was forced to turn around and land in Minsk instead.

Mr Rogozin vented his anger at Romania's decision and later tweeted: "Expect a response, scoundrels!"

"We have flown with the airline company several times before and never had any problems ... with Belarussian, Polish, Slovakian and Hungarian airspace," he told the Russian Interfax news agency.

Bucharest said the decision was made because of EU sanctions introduced in 2014 as the conflict surged between pro-Russian rebels and government forces in eastern Ukraine.

Mr Rogozin is among dozens of Russian and Ukrainian individuals to have been hit by the EU's punitive measures, which include asset freezes and travel bans.

He is under attack for his role in the Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014.

Moldova is currently locked in a tug-of-war between the pro-West government and Kremlin-friendly figurehead president, Igor Dodon.

The small country wedged between Romania and Ukraine has an East-West cultural, linguistic and political split.

Earlier this month, Moldovan legislators issued a fresh demand for Russia to pull out troops stationed in the breakaway territory of Transdniestr since a ceasefire deal halted a bitter conflict 25 years ago.

In May, Chisinau kicked out five Russian diplomats, and saw Moscow turf out its officials in revenge.

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