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Russia To Suspend Flights To Egypt Following Sinai Plane Crash

November 06, 2015

Russia has suspendеd passenger flights to Egypt in the wake of the plane crash last week that killed 224 people, mostly Russian citizens.

The suspension ordered by President Vladimir Putin on November 6 was the strongest sign оf concern from Moscow about the causes of the crash of the Kogalymavia/Metrojet Airbus A321.

Increasing suggestions from top U.S. and British officials have pointed to a possible terrorist attack for bringing down the plane on October 31 over the Sinai Peninsula.

Both Egypt and Russia have insisted it is too early to draw conclusions, but the Kremlin said the decision to halt the flights was a precaution until the cause of the crash is determined and safety is ensured.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Putin also ordered the government to figure out how to return thousands of Russian citizens who will now be stranded in Egypt, mainly at the popular Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

At an emergency meeting of Russia's antiterrorist committee, the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), Aleksandr Bortnikov, said the suspension would be 'reasonable' pending the results of the investigation.

Russia's Federal Air Transport Agency, Rosaviatsia, said it had instructions from the Transport Ministry to maintain the suspension 'until further notice, meaning the time when complaints are resolved on ensuring aviation safety in Egypt airports in accordance with international requirements.'

The Airbus A321-200 went down over the Sinai about 23 minutes after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh en route to St. Petersburg.

Most of the 224 people killed were Russians, along with some Ukrainians and at least one Belarusian.

The Interfax news agency quoted Russian tourism officials as saying around 50,000 Russian tourists are currently in Egypt and said refunding canceled tickets to Egypt could bankrupt Russian tour operators.

Reuters on November 6 quoted unnamed U.S. officials as saying that intercepted intelligence 'chatter' supports the theory that a bomb brought down the jet.

Both the U.S. officials and officials in Europe cautioned that there wasn't yet conclusive forensic evidence to support that theory, and that possible mechanical failure had not been ruled out.

Major airlines announced the suspension of flights to Egypt, which will severely affect the country's tourism industry.

Turkey announced the cancelation of Turkish Airlines fights, joining airlines from Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, and Britain, which has said a bomb planted by an Islamic State (IS) affiliate may have caused the crash.

A Sinai-based group affiliated with the IS militant group has claimed responsibility for the crash, which, if confirmed, would make it the first attack on civil aviation by the militant group or a proxy. The radical militants have has seized vast territory in Syria and Iraq.

Russia began a campaign of air strikes in Syria on September 30, ostensibly targeting Islamic State militants, but Western officials have said the Russian strikes are instead hitting moderate Syrian rebel groups fighting against President Bashar al-Assad, a close Moscow ally.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP


Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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