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Russia Reverses Decision To Suspend Flights

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The head of the investigation into the Russian airliner crash confirms there was a loud noise in the last second of the cockpit voice recording. The Egyptian team is trying to analyze the source of the noise. Russia has stopped all of its tourist flights to Egypt amid reports that a bomb caused the crash. At a news conference today, the lead Egyptian investigator urged other countries to come forward with evidence to support that claim. NPR's Corey Flintoff joins us from Moscow. Corey, thanks for being with us.

COREY FLINTOFF, BYLINE: Good morning, Scott.

SIMON: If, in fact, it turns out that some kind of bomb or device was involved, how do you think the Russian attitude towards the air campaign they're running in Syria might change?

FLINTOFF: Well, up until now, there's been a lot of popular support for those airstrikes. And the analysts that I've talked with here think that this one tragedy isn't going to change that very much. In fact, if Russians perceive themselves to be under attack, they may well give more support to the government.

SIMON: So you don't think this will be seen as some kind of misstep on Mr. Putin's part.

FLINTOFF: No, but, you know, it could get people thinking about Russia's policy in the Middle East. You know, one thing that struck me about the information we've been getting today is how widely this flight ban will affect people all across Russia. You know, it's not just people in Moscow and St. Petersburg who go to these resorts in Egypt. There are about 20 airports in cities all around the country that have flights to the Sinai. So that suggests to me that, for the first time, people all over Russia are going to feel a personal connection to what's going on in the Middle East. And if this is a terrorist attack against Russia, they're going to feel that their personal safety could be affected by Russia's policy in Syria.

SIMON: And Egypt is a major tourist destination for Russians, isn't it?

FLINTOFF: Absolutely. Egypt is probably the most popular foreign destination for Russian tourists. There were about 3 million of them who went there last year. You know, for Russians, going to these Red Sea resorts is a lot like Americans going to Hawaii. This time of year on television you see ads for these places all the time. And the season for the tourists is just getting started. Russia's tourism chief said there could be as many as a 79,000 Russians there in Egypt already.

SIMON: And how do you get them home? How's Russia handling that?

FLINTOFF: Well, tourism officials are saying it could take up to a month to get everybody home. They'd use a system that would be something like the one that Britain is using, where people are allowed to come home carrying only small hand luggage onto the plane. And their main baggage would be brought home in a separate cargo plane. So far, in Russia here, though, it seems that they're just making up the strategy as they go along.

SIMON: And, Corey, can you say what the economic consequences might be?

FLINTOFF: Well, we're trying to figure out what this is going to mean. Both the airline business and the tourism business have been having a lot of problems lately. This is all part of a broader economic picture, but we've had bankruptcies in some of the major airlines. It's all due to the fact that, you know, oil prices are predicted to stay low here. The sanctions against Russia are still in place. Russia's economy is basically stagnating right now, and any blow to the tourism and the airline industries are just going to hurt that much more.

SIMON: NPR's Corey Flintoff in Moscow, thanks so much.

FLINTOFF: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.