MOSCOW, January 9. /TASS/. Russian nationals are not canceling trips to the Middle East against the backdrop of recommendations from the Russian Federal Agency for Air Transport for Russian carriers not to use the airspace of Iran and Iraq, Vice President of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia (ATOR) Dmitry Gorin told TASS on Thursday.
On January 8, the federal agency advised Russian carriers against flying over Iran and Iraq, as well as over the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. With this in mind, the Russian Federal Agency for Tourism asked travel agencies to inform tourists promptly about changes in the timetable of flights.
"This does not affect [the demand]. There have been no trip cancellations. Moreover, we have already had a similar situation, when a decision was made to bypass Ukraine en route to Turkey," Gorin pointed out.
The United Arab Emirates is the most lucrative Middle Eastern destination for Russian tourists, he said. As for Iran, it is visited mainly by individual tourists, Gorin noted. According to him, about 16,000 people visited Iran last year, including 2,000 organized tourists.
Iran route jitters
On January 8, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev issued a directive to assess the safety of flights and tourism in the Middle East, his Spokesperson Oleg Osipov said. The instructions were given to Deputy Prime Minister Maxim Akimov, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Transport Minister Yevgeny Dietrich and Economic Development Minister Maxim Oreshkin.
Tensions around Iran flared up following a US drone strike at Baghdad International Airport, which killed General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force. On January 8, Iran retaliated by launching missile strikes on two military facilities in Iraq used by the United States. According to the Pentagon’s spokesperson, the Al-Asad Air Base and the airport of Erbil were targeted.
A Boeing 737 belonging to Ukraine International Airlines carrying 180 passengers and crewmembers crashed in the Iranian capital of Tehran shortly after takeoff from the Imam Khomeini International Airport on Wednesday. All people on board were killed, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry said.
According to the agency, the passenger jet, which was headed from Tehran to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, crashed reportedly due to technical problems.