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Flights between Russia, Ukraine to be banned starting Sunday

A ban on direct flights between Russia and Ukraine is set to start on Sunday. The two countries have been unable to reach a breakthrough in negotiations after Ukraine announced it would ban Russian flights last month.

Ukraine announced last month the ban would go into effect on October 25, in retaliation for direct flights by Russian airlines to Crimea and its support for pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine.

The move was part of a broader Ukrainian sanctions regime on some 500 Russian individuals and companies, including airliners. The ban also prohibited Russian military equipment or troops from flying over Ukrainian airspace.

Russia responded with its own sanctions barring Ukrainian flights from flying to Russia or using its airspace.

Russian has sought to prevent the sanctions, but Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Andrei Pivovarsky told reporters the sanctions would go into effect on Sunday, Russia's TASS news agency reported.

The minister noted that about 650,000 passengers traveled by air between the two countries in 2015. About two-thirds of the passengers were carried by Russian airlines.

Ukraine is going ahead with the sanctions despite several weeks of relative quiet in eastern Ukraine. The conflict has claimed the lives of at least 8,000 people since April 2014.

Relations between Ukraine and Russia hit a low after protests in early 2014 ousted the pro-Russian president in Kyiv, and Russia followed up by annexing the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014. Ukraine accuses Russia of backing and arming separatists in eastern Ukraine, charges Russia has denied.

cw/cmk (dpa, Reuters)

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