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Russian flights return to Egypt’s resorts six years after crash

russian tourists are seen at airport as flights resume to egypt’s red sea resorts
Russian tourists at the airport as flights resume to Egypt’s Red Sea resorts. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany

Russian flights landed in the Egyptian resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada for the first time in nearly six years on Monday after Moscow had banned them following a deadly plane crash.

A Rossiya Airlines flight arrived in Sharm el-Sheikh from Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport with 517 tourists on board, the Egyptian civil aviation ministry said in a statement. Another of the airline’s flights arrived in Hurghada from Moscow carrying 518 passengers aboard, the ministry said.

Russia stopped flights to Egypt after a Metrojet plane taking Russian holidaymakers back from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg broke up over the Sinai Peninsula in October 2015, killing all 224 people on board. Flights had also been stopped to Cairo but were resumed in 2018.

Russia concluded the Metrojet plane was destroyed by a bomb. A group affiliated with Islamic State militants claimed responsibility.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decree lifting the ban will be a boon for Egypt’s year-round resorts of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada, which attracted large numbers of Russians in the past.

Tourism is a key source of hard currency for Egypt, an important industry for employing young people that accounts for up to 15% of gross domestic product.

The sector was pummelled by the COVID-19 pandemic, with tourism revenues at about $4 billion in 2020, down by 70% from $13 billion in 2019.

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