Maltese airspace will be closed to Russian airlines in response to the invasion of Ukraine, Prime Minister Robert Abela announced on Sunday. 

The move puts Malta in line with most EU countries, which announced similar measures on Sunday. Several European nations, including Italy, Sweden, Germany and Belgium, as well as the UK, have banned Russian flights in their airspace as Western nations ramp up punishments against Moscow.

Italy's foreign minister Luigi Di Maio called for a common EU action to close airspace to Russian planes. 

In tit-for-tat punitive measures, Russia on Sunday closed its airspace to flights operated by carriers from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia. A day earlier, it had banned flights from Bulgaria, Poland and the Czech Republic, while on Friday, it banned all UK-linked planes from its skies.

Malta has condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the foreign ministry expressing its "strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders, as well as its sovereign right to choose its own foreign and security policy path".

Nevertheless, Abela's government has so far brushed off a chorus of demands for Maltese passport sales to Russians to be halted, arguing that the calls suggested that all Russian nationals were criminals.

“Being in favour of peace does not mean sowing division," Abela said on Saturday. In sensitive situations like these, there is no room for such bombastic statements."

He has insisted that Malta’s Individual Investor Programme is “robust” and operates strong due diligence policies.

EU foreign ministers will later on Sunday look at helping Ukraine against the Russian offensive by discussing the funding of "lethal material" and supplies such as fuel, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

Their emergency meeting, by video link, will also examine additional EU sanctions announced overnight by European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen.

They include cutting certain Russian banks out of the global SWIFT network, harming their ability to do crossborder transfers, and blocking the Russian central bank's access to its reserves.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us