Romania asked Moscow for an explanation on Saturday, after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Rogozin reacted to being barred from its airspace by tweeting that he would return in a Tu-160 strategic bomber.
Rogozin, one of the senior Russian officials sanctioned by the EU and US after Moscow moved to annex Crimea, was turned away when his plane tried to fly to Moscow from Moldova’s breakaway Transnistria region.
According to his tweets in English, Rogozin, who oversees Russia’s powerful arms industry, was also blocked by Ukrainian interceptor jets as he tried to fly home from the Russian-speaking region of Moldova bordering Ukraine.
“Upon US request, Romania has closed its airspace for my plane,” he tweeted. “Ukraine doesn’t allow me to pass through again. Next time I’ll fly on board Tu-160.”
The supersonic Soviet-era Tu-160 is Russia’s largest strategic bomber.
The Romanian foreign ministry asked Moscow to clarify whether Rogozin’s comments represented “the Russian Federation’s official position towards Romania as an EU and NATO member”.
“[The Romanian foreign ministry] believes the threat of using a Russian strategic bomber plane by a Russian deputy prime minister is a very grave statement under the current regional context... The Russian Federation has broken Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty ... while pro-Russian separatists are violating public order in the neighboring state,” it said
The statement said Romania was abiding by the sanctions imposed by the EU against Russia.
Rogozin, an avid user of social media, posted on his Facebook page the Romanian message to him citing the relevant European Council decisions.
Travel bans are among the sanctions Western states have imposed on some Russian and pro-Moscow Ukrainian political and business leaders, including Rogozin.
Rogozin was visiting Russian-speaking Transnistria, a long narrow strip of Moldova that borders Ukraine and which broke away from the rest of the Romanian-speaking country in 1990 as the Soviet Union was beginning to collapse.
Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries and Romania’s eastern neighbor, is seeking closer ties with the EU, which last month said Moldovans would no longer need visas to travel to most of the bloc.
Rogozin also tweeted he attended celebrations on Friday in Tiraspol, capital of Transnistria, to mark the anniversary of the 1945 Soviet victory over Nazi Germany.