MOSCOW: Around 79,000 Russians are stranded in Egypt after the Kremlin grounded all flights to the country following a deadly Russian airliner crash, the head of Russia’s state tourism agency said on Saturday.
President Vladimir Putin ordered the flight suspension on Friday, a possible sign that Russia is attaching more credence to the theory that a bomb brought down a Russian passenger jet in Egypt a week ago, killing all 224 people on board.
Oleg Safonov, the head of Rostourism, said most Russians in Egypt had been holidaying in the Red Sea resorts of Hurghada and Sharm al-Sheikh and that 1,200 had already been returned home.
“A planned process to evacuate tourists will be executed,” Russian news agencies quoted Safonov as saying. “Planes will arrive empty and be boarded by those tourists who should return home on that date.”
Safonov said passengers would be returning without hold luggage, mirroring a decision made by Britain as part of chaotic efforts to return thousands of its tourists home amid heightened security concerns.
The Russian Travel Industry Union said nearly all Russian tourists due to visit Egypt in the coming days had agreed to fly to Turkey instead.
“In the near future, flights which should have flown to Egypt are being redirected to Antalya,” the Interfax news agency quoted union spokeswoman Irina Turina as saying. “Practically all tourists have agreed with this.”