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Russia Suspends Flights To Egypt Amid Probe Into Plane Crash


Russia has suspended flights to Egypt amid suspicions that the airliner crash in Sinai on Saturday was caused by a terrorist attack. Moscow says the decision is just precautionary until the real cause of the crash is determined. But it could create a logistic nightmare for tens of thousands of Russian tourists in Egypt. NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Moscow.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Just yesterday, Russian officials were openly scornful of Britain for deciding to suspend flights to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. They said it was premature to speculate that Saturday's flight was brought down by a bomb. If Britain had intelligence about the cause, they asked, why wasn't that information shared with Russia? Just 24 hours later, the head of the Russian security service took a very different view.

ALEXANDER BORTNIKOV: (Foreign language spoken).

FLINTOFF: Alexander Bortnikov said, "until the true cause of the crash is known, it would be reasonable to stop all Russian flights to Egypt." President Vladimir Putin quickly ordered the Russian Air Transport Agency to come up with a plan for stopping flights and bringing Russian tourists home. That will be easier said than done. Egypt is a popular destination for package tours from Russia, and tourism officials say there are around 50,000 Russians on vacation there now. Britain's been trying to bring its 20,000 citizens home, and that process has turned into a logistical nightmare. Britain's ambassador to Egypt, John Casson, tried to put a good face on the situation and got an earful from frustrated would-be passengers.

JOHN CASSON: Flights are coming in that will allow us to take more people home later today. We've got very good collaboration, and our expectation is to get as many people home as soon as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We've been told the planes can't land. So what's the problem? You're stuttering now. What's the problem? We want to go home.

FLINTOFF: Russia may find itself dealing with more than twice as many people in a chaotic situation that can only get worse. Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Moscow. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.