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Germany says airlines should avoid eastern Ukraine


BERLIN - German authorities have warned airlines against flying over eastern Ukraine, a spokeswoman for Germany's Federal Aviation Authority (LBA) said on Friday.

After Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was downed on Thursday over an area where rebels are fighting Ukrainian forces, killing all 298 people on board, questions have been raised as to why airlines were flying over a conflict zone.

Airlines on Thursday diverted their planes and Ukraine on Friday closed its airspace over the area.

Germany appeared to have gone one step further by including all conflict zones in a warning sent out by theFederal Aviation Authority (LBA) to Germany's 144 aviation firms. The LBA later clarified it was referring only toeastern Ukraine.

Joerg Handwerg, a board member at German pilots' union Vereinigung Cockpit and an A320 captain, earlier told Reuters that questions must be asked over whether planes should be allowed to fly over conflict zones.

"Flying over contested territories such as Afghanistan was previously thought of as unproblematic, because there were no weapons that could reach passenger planes at the altitudes they fly," Handwerg, who flies medium-haul planes, told Reuters.

"From the point of view of pilots, the threat was of a different quality before. There were only a few flights that were classed as critical ... But now planes flying at 10,000 metres above the entire country are a risk."