[WATCH] Russia hits back: ‘Solution of Malta government is not friendly’

Malta’s decision to refuse use of airspace by Russian military aircraft bound for Venezuela has angered the Russian government 

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Maria Zakharova said during her weekly briefing that Malta's solution was not friendly
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Maria Zakharova said during her weekly briefing that Malta's solution was not friendly
Russia hits back: ‘Solution of Malta government is not friendly’

The Russian government has described Malta’s decision to close its airspace to Russian military transport planes bound for Venezuela as “not friendly”.

Russian foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova on Thursday said the Russian government will take Malta’s decision “into account” when considering bilateral relations with Valletta.

Malta has twice refused permission to Russian military planes bound for Venezuela to use its airspace after a first request had been accepted.

At the weekly news briefing today, Zakharova said the Russian embassy in Malta had asked for permission to allow Russian planes bound for Venezuela to pass through Malta’s airspace.

She acknowledged that Malta exercised is sovereign right but went on to say: “The solution of Malta government is not friendly… of course Russia will take this into account in its bilateral relations with Valletta.”

The Russian government has insisted it was not given an explanation for the refusal.

The news of Malta’s decision to refuse use of its airspace was initially reported by Buzz Feed, which also quoted a senior Maltese government source saying that Malta feared Russia may start a campaign of sorts to cause trouble in the country ahead of the European Parliament election.

The refusal to allow Russian planes from using Malta's airspace was later confirmed by the Maltese foreign ministry to MaltaToday.

Zakharova insisted she was “surprised” by the statement that Russia would cause trouble, describing it as “absurd” and “fake news”.

“This destroys the good image of the mass media in Malta… Russia’s position is that we shall not interfere in a sovereign country no matter how big and what military potential it has,” she said.

She also recalled the decision in 2016 by the Maltese government to refuse permission to allow a Russian warship to refuel in Malta on its way to Syria.

READ ALSO: Russian ships will not refuel in Malta and Russia lashes out at Malta over refusal to refuel its warships

The Russian warning came on the same day that reports emerged of an attempt by Russian nationals to purchase tear gas canisters and riot gear equipment in Malta.

The attempts were blocked by the Maltese authorities on suspicion the equipment was intended for Venezuela.

A senior government source told MaltaToday that the attempts to buy the equipment were made at the same time that a request for a visit by a warship was made by the Russian embassy in Malta.

The source said that information which reached the Maltese Security Service suggested the equipment may have been intended for the ship.

The Russian embassy had sought permission for a visit by the warship Severomorsk, a large anti-submarine guided-missile destroyer, to dock at Grand Harbour between 23 and 26 April but withdrew the request last Tuesday.

The Maltese government was going to refuse the request.

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