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Putin suspends Russian flights to Egypt, following bomb suspicions

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REUTERS/Maxim Zmeyev

(Read caption) People gather in front of an information board at Domodedovo airport outside Moscow, Russia, November 6, 2015. President Vladimir Putin ordered the suspension of all Russian passenger flights to Egypt on Friday until the cause of a deadly plane crash at the weekend was established. Putin's decision was a response to the unexplained crash of an Airbus A321 operated by a Russian carrier on Saturday over Egypt's Sinai Peninsula.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Friday that all Russian air flights to Egypt will be suspended over concerns of another air disaster, following a Russian plane crash in the Sinai Peninsula last week. 

The decision comes following claims from US and British officials that a bomb may have been placed on the Russian charter jet that crashed in the Egyptian desert on Oct. 31, killing 224 people. Russia will also be taking measures to ensure its citizens vacationing in Egypt will make it home safely.

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Several airlines have already imposed bans on luggage, including British carriers easyJet, Thomson Airways, and Monarch Airlines. Passengers are allowed one piece of carry-on luggage for essentials. Larger carry-on luggage will be flown back to Britain on a separate flight. The Dutch airline KLM is following similar security measures on its flights in and out of Cairo. 

Mr. Putin’s announcement comes two days after British Prime Minister David Cameron announced similar measures to recall British citizens safely back home. Roughly 19,000 British tourists are stranded in Sharm el-Sheikh.

The decision to suspend flights to Egypt from Russia is a shift from Putin’s prior stance. According to a report by the Moscow Times, Russian officials called Mr. Cameron’s decision to suspend flights to Egypt “politically-motivated.” Now, Russia is following suit.

The cause of the crash remains a mystery, but according to American military officials, satellite surveillance detected a flash of light just before the jet fell apart mid-air. President Obama has stated the possibility there was a terrorist bomb on board is “certainly possible,” while Mr. Cameron is saying it’s “more likely than not.”

Islamic State (IS) announced it was responsible for bringing down the plane soon after the crash, releasing a propaganda video in which militants were shown shooting down the plane, though Russian and Egyptian authorities claim there is still no evidence that IS was involved. IS has called for a war against Russia and the United States for their air strikes in Syria. 

Crash investigators are currently analyzing the aircraft's black boxes for any evidence of what happened just before the flight went down.

Other countries are taking strong measures to assess the safety situation in Egypt before advising their citizens to travel there. Turkish Airlines has canceled flights to Egypt for two days until a team of security experts has finished assessing the situation. 

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Hossam Kamal, the Egyptian minister of civil aviation, said in a statement Thursday that the likelihood that a bomb brought down the plane was “not based on facts.”


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