What is a no-fly zone? And why isn't it being put in place?

The West are adamant they won't put a no-fly zone in place over the skies of Ukraine, despite mounting pleas.

The West are adamant they won't put a no-fly zone in place over the skies of Ukraine, despite mounting pleas.

As Russian attacks on the Ukraine intensify, there have been renewed calls for a no-fly zone to be put into place to stop Russian aircraft entering the airspace above. Despite Ukraine's President Zelenskyy pressing for a no-fly zone, the UK and Nato allies have so far refused.

But why? And what exactly is a no-fly zone?


What is a no-fly zone?

A no-fly zone is an area of airspace from which certain aircraft are barred from flying. It can be put in place for security and privacy reasons, such as in the case of over royal residences, or it can be temporary, for say, sporting events.

But, no-fly zones have also been used in conflicts; a no-fly zone was approved by the UN Security Council during the 2011 military intervention in Libya and during the Balkans conflict in 1992, unauthorised military flights in Bosnian airspace were banned following a resolution implemented by the UN.

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Why won't the West put a no-fly zone in place over Ukraine?

Speaking to BBC Breakfast today, Dr David Blagden, a senior lecturer in international security at the University of Exeter, laid out the complexities involved:

"A no-fly zone is not something you simply declare. It would have to be enforced.

Now, unless Russian airforce were willing to be escorted out of Ukrainian air space by Nato forces - which seems unlikely given the stakes Russia now has in this conflict - that would mean, at a very minimum, Nato aircraft engaging [in] trying to shoot down Russian aircraft."

Indeed, the US and the UK have rejected calls for a no-fly zone citing fears that fighting Russian military jets could lead to more conflict.

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, had even said such actions would trigger a "war across Europe". Simply put, many military experts say a no-fly zone is off the table, despite pleas and protests to 'close the sky'.

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President Zelenskyy today responded to the refusal to implement a no-fly zone over the Ukraine, by appealing to the West to instead send him warplanes.

"If you do not have the power to close the skies [enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine], then give me planes," he said. "If we are no more then, God forbid, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia will be next."

Amy Sedghi

Amy Sedghi is a freelance journalist, specialising in health and fitness, travel, beauty, sustainability and cycling.

Having started her career in The Guardian newsroom working with an award-winning team, Amy's proud to have reported on a variety of topics, speaking to a range of voices and travelling far and wide to do so. From interviews on ski lifts to writing up breaking stories outside courtrooms, Amy is used to reporting from a range of locations (she’s even been known to type up a story in a tent).

She also loves being active, spending time outdoors and travelling - with some of her favourite features she’s worked on combining all three. Cycling and eating her way round the Isle of Man, learning to sail on the Côte d'Azur and traversing the Caminito del Rey path in Spain are just some of her highlights.

Covering a diverse range of subjects appeals to Amy. One minute she may be writing about her online styling session with Katie Holmes’ stylist and the next she’s transporting readers to the basketball courts of Haringey where she joined a group trying to lower knife crime in the capital.

While at university, Amy was awarded The Media Society bursary. Following her stint at the Guardian, Amy worked at Google and as well as writing for Marie Claire, she regularly contributes interviews, features and articles to National Geographic Traveller, The Guardian, The Independent, The Telegraph, Stylist, Refinery29, Glorious Sport, Cycling Weekly and Rouleur.

When she’s not writing, Amy can be found trying to get through her towering stack of books-to-read, cycling down at Herne Hill Velodrome or looking for the next place to eat and drink with friends.