European watchdog urges airlines to avoid Crimea airspace

The European aviation safety watchdog on Thursday urged airlines to avoid the airspace above Crimea, warning of "serious risks" after the peninsula was annexed by Russia.

In a statement, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) said Russia's stated intention of taking over air traffic above Crimea, which is currently under Ukraine's responsibility, posed "serious risks to the safety of international civil flights".

"Due to the unsafe situation where more than one air traffic service provider may be controlling flights within the same airspace from 3 April 2014,... consideration should be given to measures to avoid the airspace and circumnavigate the Simferopol FIR (airspace) with alternative routings," the EASA said.

Russia annexed Crimea last month after Ukraine's pro-Moscow leader Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown in February following three months of anti-government protests that rocked the capital Kiev and other cities.