Russia is asking European countries for more information about their epidemiological situation before making decisions on charter flights, it was revealed on Friday.
A government source told Phileleftheros that the Russian government has sent a questionnaire to European countries, including Cyprus, that are popular destinations among its nationals asking for information and data on their epidemiological situation.
Rumours placed political motivations behind Russia’s delays, suggesting that the move might be retaliation for EU sanctions against Belarus, but Friday’s reports said decisions would be taken based on epidemiological, and not political, criteria.
Last week, a total of 20 flights from Russia due to land in Cyprus were not able to depart due to a lack of clarity on the rules on charter flights from the Russian government.
Deputy tourism minister Savvas Perdios clarified that the flights were not cancelled but simply rescheduled as they were not cleared by the Russian government.
Russia currently represents the second biggest market for the tourism industry in Cyprus after the UK. With the British government still tethering on foreign travel, Russian tourists are now even more vital for the industry.
Perdios confirmed that the 20 flights destined for Cyprus were not effectively cancelled, but simply not allowed to depart, adding that they might be postponed to July when the situation regarding charter travel will be clarified by the Russian government.
At the moment, Russia only allows flights to Egypt and Qatar. The deputy minister, however, said he expects the government to start allowing charter flights to four of five more countries, including Cyprus, in the next few weeks, after allowing their vaccination programme to extend its coverage to citizens.
He also added that Russian tour operators are currently considering scheduling around 500 flights per month to Cyprus from July onwards. The deputy minister travelled to Moscow on June 5, where he briefed the Russian government on the island’s improved Covid-19 data and initiated talks on the restart of chartered flights to Cyprus.
A series of teleconferences have been planned for the next few days, with the possibility of Perdios returning to Moscow.
The government is reportedly optimistic flights to Cyprus will soon be given the green light thanks to Perdios’ negotiations, but also to the dramatically improved epidemiological picture.
Perdios also said that communications are now at a high political level, with the involvement of the foreign ministry and transport ministry. The intention is to give political assurances to the Russian government of the island’s safety as a destination with regards to the management of the pandemic.
At the same time, Germany announced on Friday that it has removed a number of destinations including Cyprus and some regions in Greece from its coronavirus travel risk list, which could be a new glimmer of hope for the tourism industry though the German market is small for Cyprus buy comparison with the UK and Russia.