MOSCOW, 26 March (BelTA) – A new mechanism is now in place to repatriate Belarusian nationals who return home from third countries in transit through Moscow amidst the coronavirus containment measures imposed by Russia, BelTA learned from the press service of the Belarusian Embassy in Russia.
“Today seven Belarusians who arrived at Moscow's Vnukovo airport from the Dominican Republic were escorted by the police and Belarusian diplomats to Domodedovo airport in compliance with all the safety measures,” the press service noted. They flew off to Minsk by a Belavia regular flight at 19.55.
The diplomatic mission recalled that in view of the restrictions imposed by Russia, foreign nationals could not fly home through Russia's transit airports, which created certain difficulties for Belarusians as they no longer could choose the terms of their transit through Moscow.
“In addition to air travel, we will also explore a possibility to use railways and bus service, as well as personal cars for that purpose. At the same time, the general requirement to leave the territory of the Russian Federation within 24 hours remains in place,” the embassy noted.
Charter flights will also be used if needed to bring Belarusians home as fast as possible.
By 26 March, Belavia had made four charter flights to Vnukovo to bring home Belarusian nationals. Belavia's first charter flight helped repatriate about a hundred Belarusian nationals on 20 March. The second charter flight flew 82 people including three foreigners (Armenia, Ukraine and Lithuania) on the night of 23 March. The third charter flight operated by Belavia brought over 70 people to Minsk, including citizens of Armenia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands and Russia. Belavia's fourth charter flight flew Belarusian citizens and third-country nationals to Minsk on the night of 26 March. On board the plane there were 138 people, including 63 nationals of Belarus and a great number of Ukrainian citizens, as well as citizens of Germany, Morocco, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan for whom the flight via Minsk is virtually the only way to get home.
As BelTA has reported earlier, on 18 March, Russia closed borders to foreign nationals, including citizens of Belarus, over the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. Yet, it allowed transit through Moscow's airports Sheremetyevo and Domodedovo providing that citizens do not leave the transit zone and fly to Belarus within 24 hours. However, most Russian flights from the Asia-Pacific region arrive at Moscow's Vnukovo airport from which there are no direct flights to Minsk. Later on, Russia relaxed the transit rules to allow nationals of the CIS states, including Belarus, to fly through other airports in transit.