All flights from Minsk to countries westward of Belarus were cancelled on Saturday until at least 4 p.m. as a huge plume of volcanic ash continued drifting across Europe from Iceland.
"Belarus’ airspace at an altitude of 7,000 meters and more has been closed. The airspace below is open,"Uladzimir Nahulevich, a senior official at the transport ministry’s aviation department, told BelaPAN.
He said that flights in the eastern and southern directions, including to Moscow, were not cancelled. The authorities will consider whether or not to extend the no-fly restrictions later on Saturday, according to Mr. Nahulevich.
The Belarusian government on Friday temporarily eased visa formalities for foreigners whose flights were cancelled because of the ash cloud.
"As a result of the force majeure, many foreign nationals - air passengers - have been forced to stay in Belarus, with some foreigners having their Belarusian visas expired," the foreign ministry’s press office said.
Belarus’ national airline Belavia had to cancel flights to Berlin, London and Riga on April 16, while some flights operated by other carriers also were called off.
The easier visa formalities will be in place for the passengers until April 20, according to the report. Millions of air travelers were stranded across Europe after some 16,000 flights were cancelled in nearly two dozen countries on Friday and the conditions were expected to worsen throughout April 17.