World Bulletin / News Desk
Direct flights between Ukraine and Russia were grounded Sunday as mistrust between the ex-Soviet neighbours boiled over into a new trade war that affects tens of thousands of families.
"I never thought it would come to this," said 30-year-old Muscovite Alexander Mikhaylin after walking off the very last Russian flight into Kiev's Boryspil airport late Saturday.
"Of course it will make life more difficult," the IT specialist said while still wearily clutching his red Russian passport after passing the customs zone.
"These were the cheapest and most convenient tickets," he sighed.
Russia and Ukraine share a long history and a fierce animosity sparked by months of protests in winter 2013-2014 that ousted Kremlin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych and brought a strongly pro-Western leadership to power.
Ukraine's decision to escape Moscow's orbit set off a bloody chain of events that included Russia's March 2014 seizure of Crimea and the 18-month-long eastern separatist conflict that has claimed at least 8,000 lives.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denies choreographing the eastern revolt in reprisal for the change of heart in Ukraine -- a key component of Moscow's dream of leading a new bloc of regional nations that could rival the European Union and NATO.
But Kiev and its Western allies have challenged that denial because Putin had also at first denied that Russian forces had been dispatched to take over the Crimean peninsula.
He later admitted on Russian state television that the entire Black Sea operation had been well planned in advance.
The veteran Kremlin leader's tough approach to his western neighbour and apparent expansionist dreams triggered a global trade war that saw Russia ban the import of most Western food in response to their sanctions against Moscow.
The most painful sanctions by Brussels and Washington impose partial bans on investments in Russia's vital energy industry.