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Putin agrees to suspend flights to Egypt until causes of A321 crash are clear — Kremlin

November 06, 2015, 17:12 UTC+3
Putin has instructed the government to ensure the return of Russian citizens from Egypt
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© Mikhail Klimentyev/Russian president's press service/TASS

MOSCOW, November 6. /TASS/. Flights to Egypt have been suspended at the instruction of Russian President Vladimir Putin until proper security level is ensured, Putin’s presssecretary Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Friday.

"I would like to explain the following: [Russia’s Federal Security Service chief] Alexander Bortnikov referred to Putin recommendations of the National Anti-terrorist Committee to suspend air service with Egypt and the president agreed with these recommendations," Peskov said. "The government has been instructed to elaborate a mechanism of transporting Russian citizens back home."

"I would like to draw your attention to the fact that the president meant air service with Egypt is to be suspended until a due level of air service security is ensured," he stressed. "We will work with the Egyptians to ensure due level of security taking into account all the risks."

When asked how long it might take to solve this task, the Kremlin spokesman said, "We hope for close cooperation" with Egypt.

He stressed that this decision did not mean that terrorist attack was the main theory of the Russian plane crash on the Sinai peninsula. "Undoubtedly, none of the versions can be still dominating as there are no clear indications in its favor," Peskov said.

Peskov also said he would not comment on whether Russia would tight security for flights to other Arab states after the Russian plane crash in Egypt. "I have nothing to tell you so far," he said in reply to the question.

He said suspension was applicable to all flights to Egypt, not only to Sharm el-Sheikh, from where the ill-fated A321 was heading.

The Kremlin spokesman did not answer the question when transportation of Russians from Egypt would start and whether it could be called evacuation. "Since the instructions have been issued to the government, all further information will come from the government," he said.

When asked what were the criteria of the proper air service security level, Peskov said this question should be referred to security specialists. "The task is to ensure flight security, pre-flight infrastructure security, so, flights would be resumed when this task is solved," he said.

"So far, the president’s vision of the ultimate point of this decision is until proper level of air service security is ensured with the Egyptians," Peskov stressed.

So far, there is no exact information on how many Russians are staying in Egypt. In the meantime, commercial director of Tez Tour, a Russian biggest travel operator, Alexander Burtin, told TASS from 30,000 to 40,000 Russian might be vacationing at Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh. "It’s high season there now," he said.

An A321 passenger jet of Russia’s Kogalymavia air carrier (flight 9268) bound to St. Petersburg crashed on October 31 some 30 minutes after the takeoff from Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh. It fell down 100 kilometers south of the administrative center of North Sinai Governorate, the city of Al-Arish. The plane was carrying 217 passengers and seven crew members. There were four Ukrainian and one Belarusian nationals among the passengers. None survived.

Over several days three countries - Ireland, Britain and the Netherlands - have suspended flights to Sharm el-Sheikh on the suspicion the A321 jet crashed after a bomb explosion on board. There have been no official confirmations yet. Russia’s forensic examinations centre earlier said that Russian and Egyptian experts examined the passengers’ bodies to find no traces of a bomb impact yet so far.

CBSnews.com reported earlier that US President Barack Obama believed it was possible that a terrorist attack could be the cause of the Russian passenger aircraft’s tragedy.

"I think there is a possibility that there was a bomb on board," President Obama was quoted as saying by CBS. "And we're taking that very seriously."

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