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KYIV: A flight from Madeira, Portugal, to Kyiv was barred from entering Ukraine on Sunday because of the crisis with Russia and forced to land in Moldova, its operator said.

Ukraine’s low-cost carrier SkyUp said the flight’s permission to cross into Ukraine was removed at the last minute by the plane’s Irish leasing company.

“Despite the airline’s best efforts and the Ukrainian government’s readiness to speak to the leasing company, the plane’s owner categorically denied (permission to enter Ukraine) once the plane was already on its way,” SkyUp said a statement.

SkyUp said it was trying to arrange a transfer for the flight’s 175 passengers from the Moldovan capital Chisinau to Kyiv.

The Ukrainian foreign ministry said it was helping arrange buses for the diverted passengers.

The incident occurred a day after Dutch carrier KLM suspended flights into Ukraine until further notice due to mounting fears that Russia was preparing an invasion of the former Soviet state.

A growing group of European and other nations are urging their citizens to leave Ukraine.

The US embassy in Kyiv on Saturday ordered the evacuation of non-emergency staff.

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