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Russian Inflight Announcements Latest Front In War Of Words With Ukraine

People walk along a corridor at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow.

Russia's war of words with Ukraine has taken an odd twist, with reports of anti-Ukrainian announcements being made on Russian flights.

Passengers traveling to Moscow from the Bulgarian seaside resort of Burgas on an August 11 flight operated by the Russian airline UTair were reportedly treated to a rather unusual inflight announcement.

"There are no official instructions from Russian authorities yet, but personally I don't want to fly over Ukraine," the pilot declared, according to a BBC correspondent who was on the plane.

Following the announcement, which the journalist said was met by a round of applause, the crew reportedly circulated a petition among passengers demanding that the aircraft "bypass Ukraine since we are not confident of our safety in relation to well-known events taking place in this country."

The flight normally overflies central Ukraine, far from the conflict pitting Ukrainian government forces against pro-Russian separatists in the country's east.

Interestingly, the flight-tracking website www.flightradar24 shows that UTair's Burgas-Moscow flight has in fact been skirting Ukraine since a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet was downed over eastern Ukraine last month.

The UTair incident follows a complaint against Transaero, another Russian airline, for similar politically tainted remarks allegedly broadcast by a pilot on July 22 during a flight from the Latvian capital, Riga, to Moscow.

Galina Timchenko, the former editor of the news website, leveled the accusations against the airline in a Facebook post, citing a friend who had been on the flight.

The pilot allegedly said the plane would overfly Belarus, "whose air-defense forces will shield us from Ukraine and its missiles."

Timchenko, still citing her friend, said several passengers were writing a protest letter.

After pledging an investigation, Transaero rejected the claims in an answer published the next day in the comments section under Timchenko's post.

Transaero said the crew had repeatedly informed passengers that the aircraft would not fly over Ukraine "due to the fact that a number of passengers expressed deep concerns before and during the flight about what route the flight would be taking."

It also denied the pilot mentioned Belarus's air-defense forces, saying he had simply announced that "Belarus lies between the aircraft's route and Ukraine."