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Aviation industry shifts attention to Russia risks after Ukraine airspace closed

The fallout to the global aviation industry from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is spreading beyond the airspace closings over the conflict zone as airlines, lessors and manufacturers face up to growing risks of doing business with Russia.
Alaska’s Anchorage Airport, a popular refueling hub for long-haul flights when Western airlines were unable to access Russian airspace during the Cold War, said carriers had started making inquiries about capacity in case routes over Russia are affected by the Ukraine crisis.

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Japan Airlines cancelled its Thursday evening flight to Moscow, citing potential safety risks, while Britain closed its airspace to Russian airlines, including Aeroflot.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy vowed on Friday to stay in Kyiv as his troops battled Russian invaders advancing toward the capital in the biggest attack on a European state since World War Two.
Airspace in Ukraine, Moldova, parts of Belarus and in southern Russia near the Ukraine border was closed when the invasion began on Thursday, giving airlines a narrower range of routing options.
Emirates said it had made minor routing changes to Stockholm, Moscow, St. Petersburg and some US flights that were hit by the airspace closings, leading to slightly longer flight times.
OPSGROUP, an aviation industry cooperative that shares information on flight risks, said any aircraft travelling through Russian airspace should have contingency plans in place for closed airspace due to risks or sanctions.
“Russia are unlikely to initiate their own sanctions and airspace bans as they would not wish to see Aeroflot receive reciprocal bans,” OPSGROUP said. “However, they may react in response to sanctions from other states.”
Russia’s aviation authority said it reserved the right to respond to Britain’s flight ban with similar measures, the TASS news agency reported on Friday.
Flight tracking website FlightRadar24 said British Airways and Virgin Atlantic flights from India and Pakistan to London that normally flew over Russia were now following a southern route that avoided Russian airspace.
The governing council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a U.N. body, will discuss the Ukraine conflict at a meeting on Friday, a spokesperson said.
As airlines assessed the airspace risks, they have also been hit by a spike in oil prices to more than $105 per barrel for the first time since 2014 as a result of the conflict. That raises operating costs at a time when travel demand remains low because of the pandemic.
Jefferies analysts said European airlines were also likely to take a longer-term hit to demand in light of the conflict, pointing to a 27 percent fall in travel from the European Union to Ukraine and Russia over the span of two years after Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
Aviation bosses are also worried about the impact on dealings with Russian companies. Sanctions could disrupt payments to leasing firms and affect the supply of aircraft parts.
Russian companies have 980 passenger jets in service, of which 777 are leased, according to analytics firm Cirium. Of these, two thirds, or 515 jets, with an estimated market value of about $10 billion, are rented from foreign firms.
Russia’s domestic market has been among the best performers globally during the pandemic, with capacity down only 7.5 percent this week compared to the same week in 2020, according to travel data firm OAG.
The Biden administration announced major export restrictions against Russia on Thursday, hammering its access to goods, including aircraft parts.
The measures, however, include carveouts for technology necessary for flight safety, raising the prospect the impact to aerospace could be limited rather than sweeping.
Eric Fanning, chief executive of the US-based Aerospace Industries Association, said the industry was reviewing the restrictions.
“Notably, we believe that sanctions and export control activities should not hinder the need to maintain flight safety of commercial aircraft,” he said.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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