The government's decision to terminate air traffic with Belarus is aimed at ensuring safety of Ukrainian citizens traveling by air.
That's according to Deputy Head of the President's Office Kyrylo Tymoshenko who spoke on the air of one of the TV channels.
In response to the question on the purpose of suspending flights to and from Belarus, Tymoshenko said: "These are not sanctions, this is a resolution of the Ukrainian government. The main goal is to protect Ukrainian citizens traveling [by air] over other countries."
"You have seen examples last week," Tymoshenko said, hinting at Belarusian government's move to force-land a Ryanair passenger jet in Minsk, to detain the founder of the NEXTA media project operating via Telegram known for widely covering Belarus protests against the latest presidential election many believe was rigged by Alexander Lukashenko.
"That is why the Ministry of Infrastructure and the government take such decisions," the official explained.
Ukraine halted air traffic with Belarus from 00:00 Kyiv time on May 26, 2021. What is more, Ukrainian airlines and aircraft are not allowed to fly in Belarusian airspace.
On May 23, 2021, Belarus scrambled a MiG-29 fighter jet to forcedly land a Ryanair plane in Minsk. The plane was heading from Athens, Greece, to Vilnius, Lithuania. Co-founder of Telegram's opposition channel NEXTA, Roman Protasevich, was on board the plane.
The plane was diverted to Minsk at the command of Belarusian air traffic controllers over a possible bomb threat, despite the fact that the distance to Vilnius was much shorter. After the plane landed, Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend were detained. Protasevich faces the death penalty in Belarus.
The circumstances of the forced landing of the Ryanair airline in Minsk will be investigated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).