Flight-tracking website Flight Radar reported on Tuesday that a number of Russian domestic flights were heading to St. Petersburg They are returned to their points of departure.
The Russian Defense Ministry later said it had conducted air exercises using previously unannounced interceptor aircraft, which had caused the flights to be cancelled.
Flights stopped, then resumed
At least five flights from Moscow to Russia’s second city were diverted to the capital as of 11 a.m. local time (0800 UTC/GMT), after initially taking off air.
Traffic resumed soon after, amid unconfirmed Russian media reports that an unidentified object such as a drone had been spotted in the area.
A Russian online news website, Baza, said fighter jets were sent to investigate after the unidentified object was spotted in the sky. Later reports said the planes had not found anything.
News agencies reported later on Tuesday that flights had started again and that a temporary airspace ban within a radius of 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Pulkovo Airport had been lifted by noon local time.
In a statement issued about an hour after the resumption of flights, the Ministry of Defense said that it was conducting exercises that included sending combat aircraft into the western airspace of Russia.
“During the training, the air defense forces worked to detect, intercept and identify targets, in addition to interacting with emergency services and law enforcement agencies,” Russian news agencies quoted the ministry as saying.
Pulkovo, about 15 kilometers (about 9 miles) south of central Saint Petersburg, is the fourth busiest airport in Russia. The airspace closure was also said to have affected flights en route to and from the Russian exclave in Kaliningrad, which required plans to fly over Saint Petersburg because neighboring countries have Closed its airspace to Russian aircraft.
In a media briefing, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov did not comment on why the flight was disrupted, but said President Vladimir Putin was fully aware of the situation.
rc/nm (Reuters, Interfax)
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