EU bans Russia Today and shuts airspace to Russian planes amid attack on Ukraine

27 February 2022, 16:47 | Updated: 27 February 2022, 22:40

The EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has announced a strengthening of sanctions against the Kremlin, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has announced a strengthening of sanctions against the Kremlin, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Picture: Getty

By Sophie Barnett

The European Commission has announced a strengthening of sanctions against the Kremlin, including a ban of the state-owned Russia Today and shutting off Russian aircraft from its airspace.

In a statement on Sunday, the European Commission's president Ursula von der Leyen said "they won’t be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory" of the EU.

That includes the private jets of oligarchs.

"First, we are shutting down the EU airspace for Russian-owned, Russian registered or Russian-controlled aircraft," Ms von der Leyen said.

"They won’t be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU.

"Including the private jets of oligarchs."

Read more: Putin puts Russia's nuclear force on alert despite Ukraine agreeing to talks

Read more: Liz Truss backs Brits who want to fight Russia in Ukraine's 'international legion'

Secondly, they will ban the "Kremlin's media machine" in the EU.

"The state-owned Russia Today and Sputnik, and their subsidiaries, will no longer be able to spread their lies to justify Putin’s war," she announced.

"We are developing tools to ban their toxic and harmful disinformation in Europe."

The 27-nation bloc will also fund supplies of weapons to Ukraine - financing the purchase and delivery of weapons and other equipment to a country that is under attack for the first time.

Ms von der Leyen also announced new sanctions against Belarus' president Alexander Lukashenko, who she described as the "other aggressor in this war" for supporting Russia's widespread military campaign.

"We will hit Lukashenko's regime with a new package of sanctions," she said.

The new sanctions targeting Putin's regime were announced within hours of the Russian president putting nuclear deterrent forces on high alert.

The announcement comes as Ukraine and Russia were set for talks at the Belarus border, near the Pripyat river, according to Ukraine's president's office.

But even as the two appeared to agree to talks, Putin, who was also hit by sanctions, has ordered his country's nuclear deterrent on alert - apparently as a response to the sanctions.

His country's banks were cut off from an international transaction system and other financial institutions have been hit, along with oligarchs.

In a meeting with top officials, Mr Putin said Nato countries had made "aggressive statements" and noted the sanctions.

He told his defence minister, Sergey Shoygu, to put nuclear deterrent forces on a "special regime of combat duty".

In addition to stronger sanctions against Russia, BP is exiting its 19.75% shareholding in oil giant Rosneft following pressure from the UK Government.

BP chairman Helge Lund said Russia's military action represents a "fundamental change" in their relationship.

Rosneft is part-owned by the Russian government, and BP has held a 19.75% stake in the firm since 2013.

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