Aeroflot was scheduled to operate a flight from Moscow to New York JFK on Friday, where it would carry home Americans and bring Russians back to their own country. Full of U.S. citizens desperate to get home in a time of crisis, the plane pushed back and taxied out to the runway only to be ordered back to the gate, the flight cancelled.
Chaos ensued on board:
Despite assuring the U.S. Embassy that very morning that the flight would operate, Russia closed its borders as the Aeroflot plane prepared to depart. The Russian government then boarded the plane and confiscated passports. Passenger luggage was not returned. And there will be no new flights out of the country until further notice. The Embassy shared,
To those of you who were boarded on that flight today only to have it cancelled moments before takeoff, we understand and share your frustration. We had received confirmation from the Government of the Russian Federation as early as this morning that the flight would go forward as scheduled. Despite those assurances, the Government of the Russian Federation ordered the immediate suspension of all international flights without warning. At this point, we do not believe any international flights will be departing from the Russian Federation until further notice.
The best advice from the U.S. government, at this point, is to make the 500 mile journey to the Finland border and plead personally for mercy to leave the country although there’s also speculation that a flight may operate on Tuesday.
The Iron Curtain was both a metaphor – and a barrier of walls, watchtowers, fences and minefields – that separated Soviet-dominated East from Western Europe. While some Americans talk of building a wall to keep people out, historically tyrannical governments have used walls to keep their citizens in. East Germany didn’t stand up the Berlin Wall to keep westerners from freedom in the East. Coronavirus has managed to cause governments to quickly seek to stop traffic in both directions, something that the Cold War failed to accomplish at scale.