Iceland Closes Airspace to Russia

Iceland

The Icelandic government has decided to close its airspace to Russian aircraft. RÚV reports that Minister of Foreign Affairs Þórdís Kolbrún Reykfjörð Gylfadóttir announced the decision via Twitter on Sunday morning, “in solidarity with Ukraine.”

Iceland was one of several Nordic countries to close its airspace to Russia over the weekend; Denmark, Sweden, and Finland announced that they would be doing the same on Sunday. Britain, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania have also closed their airspace to Russia and Germany has announced its intention to do so as well. It’s expected that Russia will face a total EU airspace ban shortly.

Iceland condemns Russia’s ‘brutal and unprovoked attack’ on Ukraine, sends €1 million in aid

Þórdís Kolbrún has made a number of public statements condemning Russia’s assault on Ukraine in recent days. On February 24, the first day of Russia’s invasion, Þórdís Kolbrún gave an official statement, stating that Iceland condemned “in the strongest possible terms, the brutal and unprovoked attack of Russia on Ukraine.” She continued: “Russia’s action is a flagrant violation of international law, including the Charter of the United Nations, and is in full contradiction to the Helsinki Final Act.” That same day, she tweeted that Iceland would be sending €1 million [ISK 141.19 million; USD 1.13 million] in humanitarian support to Ukraine.

The next day, she urged the Council of Europe to suspend “Russia’s right of representation in the Council of Europe with immediate effect.”

According to information from the Foreign Ministry, Iceland will also be revoking special privileges that have been afforded Russians coming to Iceland via existing bilateral agreements, such as simplified visa processing for Russian diplomats, businesspeople, politicians, and government representatives. The ministry has emphasized, however, that these moves are “not directed at general Russian tourists, students, or others,” whose visa applications will continue to be reviewed as per usual.

Iceland’s airspace patrolled by NATO

Iceland’s airspace is patrolled by NATO as part of an ongoing mission, called Icelandic Air Policing, which is meant “to establish air surveillance and interception coverage over Iceland and maintain the integrity of NATO airspace.” NATO members maintain a periodic presence of fighter aircraft from the former US military base at Keflavík. Icelandic Air Policing typically involves member nations deploying fighter aircraft to patrol Iceland’s airspace three times a year, for periods of three to four weeks at a time.

Russian Bombers Re-Enter NATO Airspace Near Iceland

Two Russian bombers flew into the NATO airspace surveillance area near Iceland late on Wednesday night. According to a press release issued by the Icelandic Coast Guard, the two planes neither announced themselves to air traffic control nor had their radio transponders on. It is the second time this month Russian aircraft enter NATO airspace in the region.

In accordance with NATO regulations, two Italian fighter jets—both in Iceland as part of a four-week NATO deployment—were sent to identify the unknown aircrafts. The unknown aircrafts were identified as two Russian Tupolev Tu-142 (Bear F) bombers. Although the Russian planes were in NATO’s airspace surveillance area, they were not within Icelandic airspace.

Two Russian bombers of the same make flew unannounced into the NATO airspace surveillance area near Iceland earlier this month, at which time, the Icelandic Coast Guard took the same measures, sending the Italian fighter jets to identify them.

The Coast Guard indicated in Thursday’s announcement that NATO airspace policing near Iceland is still in effect. As of March 11, however, four Italian Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon EF-2000 fighter jets also arrived in Iceland. Per an announcement on the Allied Air Command website, these jets are on a “four-week deployment to deliver NATO Airborne Surveillance and Intercept Capabilities to meet Iceland’s Peacetime Preparedness Needs.” The project is under the jurisdiction of NATO’s Combined Air Operations Center in Uedem, Germany, but is under the direction of the Icelandic Coast Guard in Iceland, in collaboration with Isavia.