Gunmen Stop Flights to Crimea Except Those from Moscow
On Tuesday, Crimea’s airport in Simferopol cancelled all flights from Kiev, Ukraine, and only allowed planes from Moscow to land.
The Telegraph described what Flight PS65 had to endure after the pilot was told he could not land in Crimea:
The aircraft then spent several confused minutes trying to work out a new onward plan. Initially the plane was diverted to the mainland port of Odessa but at the last minute the pilot pulled out of its descent and climbed sharply over the city.
As passengers began to talk agitatedly and shift in their seat, the cabin was informed that the flight would be returning to its base in the capital Kiev.
"We have been told that the airspace over the airport had been closed as it was too congested. We have been denied permission to land," he said.
A flight from Istanbul, Turkey, was cancelled as well.
Gunmen first took over the Crimean airport on February 27, just 24 hours after government buildings were seized in Simferopol. This is the first time forces interfered with actual travel. Pro-Russians and gunmen have taken over military bases, border posts, and military hospitals and set up checkpoints on the Crimea/Ukraine border.
The peninsula is a part of Ukraine, but identifies more with Russia. The Crimean parliament voted for independence ahead of a special referendum on March 16 when the people will decide to remain with Ukraine or join the Russian Federation. Russia said it would welcome Crimea, but Ukraine's Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk said the referendum is illegal. The West also condemned the move.