The number of Russian nationals who flew to the Turkish-occupied north of Cyprus went up sixfold last year, when calls for direct flights in the unrecognized part of the divided island gained traction after an EU flight ban in the south.

According to Turkish-Cypriot daily Halkin Sesi, 29,530 Russian nationals flew to Ercan airport in occupied northern Nicosia last year, which represents a more than 500% increase compared to 2021, when just 4,822 had landed. The same report said Ukrainians flying to north Nicosia in 2022 tripled to 7,740, compared to 2,702 the previous year.

The report came at a time after Russians living on the island called for direct international flights to north Nicosia, a demand seen as politically unworkable due to the situation on the island that has been divided on ethnic lines for over half a century.

The Republic of Cyprus has banned flights from Russia, eliminating an easy option for many Russians who flew to the island’s south and drove north.

Alternative routes have also emerged through Turkey, where a flight between a Black Sea coastal town and Ercan was inaugurated last month.

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