Russia has restricted civilian flights over the Black Sea and the Crimean Peninsula, amid rising tensions with Ukraine and its Western supporters.
“The area has been declared temporarily dangerous for aircraft flights,” Interfax news agency reported on Tuesday, citing an alert to pilots.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the flight restrictions an “absolutely normal world practice” in a press briefing on the same day.
But the alert raised the specter of war in a region fraught with military tensions.
Russia’s Defense Ministry previously said it had closed off navigation in parts of the Black Sea to foreign military and commercial ships from mid-April until the end of October for naval and aviation drills.
The flight restrictions come amid an escalations of tensions between Russia and the United States and NATO over Ukraine.
Russia has built up troop presence near the Ukrainian border amid increased activity by NATO forces in the region. The US and other NATO members have deployed military forces to the region as well.
Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Kubela Dmytro has claimed that 120,000 Russian troops have been deployed to the country’s border within a week.
Dmytro said a regiment of Russian paratroopers had also been stationed in Crimea in what appeared to be a permanent deployment.
Russia says the troop build-up is a response to heightened NATO activity near its borders in Ukraine. Moscow has warned that the US and NATO are turning Ukraine into a “powder keg” by increasing arms supplies to Kiev and inflaming tensions in the country’s volatile east, where government forces are fighting ethnic Russians. Separately, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has acknowledged that Kiev and Moscow hold different views about the conflict in the Russian-speaking east of Ukraine. Zelensky insisted on Tuesday that the difference of opinion about the future of the Ukrainian region was to be seen as an opportunity rather than a problem.
He invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to meet for peace talks “at any location” in the war-torn Ukrainian region of the Donbass. In a video address released on Tuesday, Zelensky said that advisers to the leaders of the Normandy Quartet (Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and France), as well as the Contact Group on Ukrainian reconciliation had discussed restoring a full ceasefire in the Donbass on Monday and Tuesday.