The European Union is shutting down flights with Belarus, companies are already refusing flights. Will Belarusians be able to leave for Europe – and what does this mean for Russians?
After an emergency landing in Minsk of a Ryanair plane and the arrest of opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, who was on board, many European politicians declared it an act of “state piracy.” The EU authorities called on the member states of the organization to interrupt flights with Belarus; many major Western airlines refused to fly over the Belarusian territory . At the same time, this means that travel to Europe is now sharply complicated for ordinary Belarusians, including those in opposition. In addition, some transit passengers from Russia also used the Minsk airport. Meduza is investigating whether it is now possible to leave Belarus.
How did you leave Belarus before?
Since December 2020, the authorities have banned Belarusian citizens and foreigners with a residence permit in this country from traveling abroad through ground checkpoints. The official reason is the fight against coronavirus
These restrictions did not apply to departures from the country. Until recently, planes flew from the national airport Minsk to Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey and many European countries. Both residents of Belarus and foreigners could fly there, provided they had the necessary entry passes.
But in 2020, due to the pandemic, the number of flights also significantly decreased: for the year, the Minsk airport served 1.9 million passengers, which is 62% less than in 2019. At the same time, as Yanis Dzenis, a representative of the Aviasales ticket search service, told Meduza, Belarusian users most often searched for tickets to Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey and the United States before Kovid. And in the year of the coronavirus, Minsk airport reported that it was European flights that dominated the passenger traffic: the most popular destinations for passengers were Kiev, Istanbul, Amsterdam, Paris and Warsaw (he did not provide exact statistics for each direction).
And what, getting to Europe from Belarus will no longer work?
For the time being , France and Great Britain have introduced a ban on the flight of the Belarusian national air carrier Belavia , but, most likely, other countries will do the same in the coming days – at least, the European Council ordered it . Many of the largest Western airlines themselves have given up flights to Belarus. But this does not mean that it will be impossible to get from there to Europe in principle.
First, there is still an opportunity to use a transit flight. As Janis Dzenis says, the number of requests in the direction Minsk-Kaliningrad increased by 73%. Belarusians will be able to get to Europe using, for example, Istanbul as a transit airport. The cost of the ticket, according to Dzenis, is now about 14 thousand rubles. At the same time, it is possible that the price will rise, and some non-European companies or countries will also impose restrictions on flights.
In addition, with regard to the ban on leaving Belarus by land, there are several exceptions. For example, those who have a residence permit in another country, work or study there, were allowed to cross the land border – but not more often than once every six months.
In some regions of Belarus – Brest, Gomel and Grodno – one base unit will have to be paid for leaving by car from June 1 . Now it is equal to 29 Belarusian rubles, or about 850 Russian rubles. The regions of Belarus were allowed to introduce such a fee at the end of 2020; it was announced that the money received will be used to disinfect checkpoints.
You can only go to Russia by train (Belarusians can go to Russia without any reason to leave, you only need to have a passport and a PCR test for coronavirus with you). The railway connection between Belarus and Russia was suspended in the spring of 2020 and resumed in February 2021. Trains do not go to other countries .