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Nearly 80,000 Russian tourists still in Egypt

Nearly 80,000 Russians are currently vacationing in Egpyt but there will be no emergency evacuation, according to the Russian tourist authorities. Russia has halted regular flights to Egypt.

"Tourists will be returning from Egypt to Russia when they planned to," said Deputy Prime Minister Arkad Dvorkovich on Saturday. He is in charge of a task force established to oversee the return of tourists. There would be no emergency evacuations, he added.

According to the Russian Tourist Industry Union, there are nearly 80,000 Russian tourists in Egypt at the moment, most of them staying in Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada.

Russia suspended regular flights to Egypt on Friday amid growing fears that a Russian jet downed last weekend over the Sinai peninsula with 224 people on board was bombed.

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Russia suspends flights to Egypt

Empty planes are being sent to Egypt to bring Russian holidaymakers home, but they will be able to return at their own pace, Russian officials said. According to Egyptian airport security officials quoted by AP, a Russian airplane carrying 86 people left Sharm el-Sheikh airport on Saturday.

Military control

According to the state-run Russian RIA news agency, Egypt's military has taken control of operations to put Russian passengers on flights back to Moscow.

Travelers are only allowed to take one item of cabin baggage with them and their other luggage is to be delivered later, according to the head of Russia's federal tourism agency, Oleg Safonov. The same decision was taken by UK authorities as part of the efforts to return holidaymakers from Egypt.

Safonov did not specify the reason for this restriction, but it appears to reflect concerns about security at Egypt's airports.

Affordable destinations such as Egypt remain popular with Russian holidaymakers, although the number of tourists traveling abroad has decreased significantly due to the economic crisis in Russia.

Reports over incident in August

The British government and the tourist agency Thompson said a plane carrying British tourists to Sharm el-Sheikh on August 23 came within 300 meters of a rocket, according to reports.

The British Department of Transport said its investigation concluded it was not a "targeted attack," but likely "to be connected to routine exercises being conducted by Egyptian military in the area at that time". However, the investigation concluded that there was "no cause for concern."

Hundreds of British holidaymakers are still stuck in Sharm el-Sheikh. On Saturday, low-cost carrier easyJet flew planes back from Sharm el-Sheikh, along with two from operator Monarch, two from Thomas Cook and one from British Airways.

Denmark, Norway and Finland also halted their flights to Sharm el-Sheikh and advised their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to this resort city.

das/jm (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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