Not taking any chances regarding the safety of its citizens post the Sinai plane crash, dozens of Russian airliners have been deployed by Moscow to bring back the stranded tourists in Egypt. At least 26 flights from the Egyptian resort areas of Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada have landed at Moscow's three airports.
"Over the past 24 hours, about 11,000 Russian tourists have been evacuated from Egypt. Today evening, the number will be even higher, it will be the hottest day in this aspect. Clearly, on weekdays there are fewer flights, and the next weekend will be hot again," Russian Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich told Russian news agency TASS on Sunday (9 November).
Russian Kogalymavia's flight A321, en-route from Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg crashed on 31 October around 20 minutes after takeoff, in the city of Al-Arish killing all 224 people on board. Latest investigations by US, UK and Egyptian authorities have indicated that the plane may have been brought down by a bomb -- on board the aircraft -- remotely detonated. In addition Egyptian factions of the Isis have claimed responsibility for the attack in retaliation to Moscow's military involvement in Syria.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on the recommendations of the national anti-terror committee had suspended all flights from Russia to Egypt on Friday (6 November). Empty planes are now being sent to bring home travellers. There are an estimated 80,000 Russians staying in Hurgada and Sharm el-Sheikh according to an earlier statement made by Russian Federal Tourism Agency chief Oleg Safonov.
"Thirteen airlines in total are involved in the special flight programs to Egypt. They fly from 27 cities, and will be returning tourists to Russia from Egypt in a planned manner. The planes are flying there empty and will come back with passengers on board," said Irina Tyurina, a spokesperson for the Russian Union of Travel Industry. The passengers will be travelling only with hand baggage and the rest of their luggage will be brought back on regular cargo planes later. Moscow will account for 60%-70% of these flights.
Meanwhile, another Russian plane with the victims' remains -- the fourth since the crash -- landed at St Petersburg's Pulkovo airport, as the identification process continues. On Friday, a memorial service took place at Saint Issac's Cathedral in the Russian city of St Petersburg for the victims of the plane crash.