UK, German MoD: German airspace not closed to RAF supply flights to Ukraine

Paul Crouch / Wikipedia

Germany and the United Kingdom have both denied reports that Royal Air Force transport aircraft were refused access to German airspace as Britain flew weapons to Ukraine.  

“Germany have not denied access to its airspace as the UK did not submit a request, there has been no dispute between the UK and Germany on this issue,” a UK Ministry of Defense spokesperson told the media, according to Euronews.  

Meanwhile, the German Ministry of Defense said that there was no request for British transporters to overfly German territory, and that they were not prohibited from entering, German newspaper Bild reports.  

Royal Air Force (RAF) Boeing C-17 Globemaster III heavy lift aircraft started ferrying weapons between RAF Brize Norton (BZZ) Air Base and Kyiv Boryspil International Airport (KBP) on January 17, 2021. Two flights were conducted on January 17, and a further three took place on January 18.  

We have taken the decision to supply Ukraine with light, anti-armor, defensive weapon systems. A small number of UK personnel will also provide early-stage training for a short period of time, within the framework of Operation ORBITAL, before then returning to the United Kingdom,” UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement 

The flights continued on January 19, and at the time of publication, two RAF C-17s were in the air, one returning from Kyiv, and one departing for Ukraine 

All flights have been avoiding German airspace, flying over the North Sea, Denmark, Baltic Sea and Poland instead.  

On January 17, 2021, the day the RAF flights began, German Foreign Minister Baerbock reiterated her country’s refusal to deliver weapons to Ukraine.  

“The restrictive position of the German government regarding weapons exports is well-known, and is rooted in our history,” Baerbock said during a press conference in Kyiv. “We will do everything to prevent a further escalation of this crisis and will use all diplomatic means to achieve it.” 

The flight route, alongside the statement, prompted speculation that Germany had denied clearance to the UK, or NATO weapon supplies to Ukraine in general.  

Many reports about Germany refusing its airspace to RAF quoted the UK Defence Journal, which was the first to publish the theory that Germany had refused to grant access to the UK. However, the UKDJ has since issued an apology, stating that its report was speculative and unconfirmed, and that the true reason for the peculiar flightpath is currently unknown. 

At the same time as the C-17 flights, the British Boeing RC-135W Rivet Joint spy plane has been overflying Germany on its way to Ukraine.  

According to German defense journalist Thomas Wiegold, British C-17s took the detour because flights with dangerous cargo require additional clearance, which the UK may have decided not to apply for.  

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