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Russian Officials Announce Flights to Egypt Officially Halted

© Press-service of Russian Emergency Situations Ministry / Go to the photo bankRussian Airbus A321 passenger airliner crash site in Egypt
Russian Airbus A321 passenger airliner crash site in Egypt - Sputnik International
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All flights between the Russian Federation and Egypt were suspended as of 8:00 PM Moscow time on Friday, according to a statement from Russia's Transportation Ministry.

"Relevant notifications have been sent to all nine Russian air carriers that conduct regular flights to Egypt, as well as to over 20 Russian airports that host these flights," Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov announced.

Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich appealed to tourists to treat the matter with understanding, and added that the costs to travel companies and tour operators, stemming from the suspicion of flights, could be substantial.

Tourists look out at a Russian plane on the tarmac of the airport in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on November 6, 2015 - Sputnik International
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"As of now, there are no flights to Egypt out of Russian airports. We ask all citizens and tourists to understand that security issues are of primary concern. The price of each life has no limits or borders, and these are our first concerns," he told reporters.

Dvorkovich clarified that the most difficult question is the return of tourists from Egypt, but stressed that there were currently no plans for emergency evacuations.

"Just to emphasize, we are avoiding speculation about the emergency evacuation of citizens immediately. At this moment there are no set plans."

According to various estimates, there are between 40,000 and 70,000 Russian tourists currently at Egyptian resorts along the Red Sea.

Meanwhile, Dmitry Gorin, the vice president of the Association of Russian Tour Operators, Turpomoshch, announced that Russians in Egypt will be permitted to return home, carrying only hand luggage. For security reasons, checked luggage will be transported separately.

Russian Airbus A321 passenger airliner crash site in Egypt - Sputnik International
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"We have our own program, similar to the British plan. Baggage will be evacuated separately. Passengers will be asked to carry with them only hand luggage, up to ten kilograms," he said in an interview with TV channel Russia 24, adding that the evacuation of all Russian tourists could take as long as one month.

Dvorkovich said that the procedure for registering, storing, and returning travelers' luggage to Russia would be worked out in the coming hours.

Earlier on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed with a recommendation from the Federal Security Service that passenger flights to Egypt should be suspended until the investigation into the crash of the Metrojet A321 on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula is complete. That announcement was followed by a meeting of the Russian aviation authority, Rosaviatsiya, to determine next steps.

According to sources speaking to NBC News, the cockpit voice recorder from the A321 is audible, and Egyptian authorities plan to hold a news conference on Saturday.

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