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Russian state airline to resume flights in late February pending signing of security protocol

Russian flag carrier Aeroflot will be able to resume flights between Moscow and Cairo in late February pending the signing of further security protocols Russian state news agency Tass reported on Tuesday.

The news follows Russian President Vladimir Putin’s signing of a presidential decree to resume flights on January 4. Although the decree does not specify when flights between the two countries would resume, a statement published by the Cairo Airport Company (CAC) on Monday asserted that Aeroflot informed Cairo flights would resume on February 3.

“We are preparing now and hope to sign a security protocol. Our security functions are working in cooperation with Cairo services. We can actually start flights in late February, if all security papers are signed,” Aeroflot CEO Vitaly Savelyev told Tass.

Egypt informed the Russian state airline that it was prepared to start receiving flights on February 3, according to Savelyev, who added that ticket sales could only begin “after the protocol has been signed.” The CEO stressed that Russia wanted to ensure that security at Cairo airport was of a high standard.

He did not disclose any details about the protocol or how it related to the similar agreement signed in December.

According to the CAC statement, Aeroflot will operate flights on Saturdays and Wednesdays. Tass, however, reported that Savelyev did not outline how many flights weekly flights the carrier intended to resume.

Egyptian officials have denied Tass’ report. Mohamed Mahrous, the president of the Egyptian Holding Company for Airports and Air Navigation (EHCAAN), CAC’s holding company, told the state-owned Al-Ahram website that the company “has no knowledge about what the Russian news agency published.” He insisted that Aeroflot sent the company a letter confirming that flights would resume on February 3, detailing the numbers and time of departure and arrival of the flights.

EgyptAir officials also announced earlier this month the company intends to operate three weekly flights to the Russian capital starting February.

Putin had signed a decree to resume flights in January, activating a December protocol on security cooperation signed by the Egyptian and Russian governments. Russian Transport Minister Maksim Sokolov said in December, during a brief visit by Putin to Cairo, that air travel between both countries would resume in February after being approved by the Russian president.

The Russian government pulled all flights to Egypt and all Egyptian planes from Russian airspace two years ago, after a Russian passenger jet was downed over the Sinai peninsula in October 2015 after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, killing all 217 passengers and seven crew members on board.  

While Egypt denied the crash was caused by a militant attack, Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service, said Russia halted flights to Egypt because a 1 kilo TNT bomb was detonated on the plane.

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