• Kremlin slams Charlie Hebdo cartoons on Russian air crash

    07/Nov/2015 // 1099 Viewers

    French weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was slammed by the Kremlin Friday for publishing cartoons linking last week's crash of a Russian airliner with Moscow’s air campaign in Syria.

    "In our country we can sum this up in a single word, sacrilege," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists. "This has nothing to do with democracy or self-expression. It is sacrilege."

    Peskov said the cartoons – one showing falling debris from the plane with the caption “Daesh [Islamic State group]: Russia aviation intensifies its bombardments” – were “unacceptable”, but said Moscow would not be making an official complaint against the French magazine.

    The second cartoon features a skull wearing a broken pair of sunglasses, with a speech bubble saying: “I should have taken Air Cocaine”, a reference to the scandal involving two French pilots who allegedly smuggled suitcases filled with cocaine out of the Dominican Republic.

    The publication of the cartoons has been widely reported in Russi, although much less in France which is used to weekly outpourings of irreverent humour in Charlie Hebdo.

    Embedded image permalinkEmbedded image permalink

    The Russian Duma's international affairs chief Alexei Pushkov tweeted: "Is there any limit to Russophobia on the pages of Western media?

    "As the whole world comforts us, Charlie Hebdo preaches its vile right to sacrilege."

    "Is anyone else 'Charlie'?" asked foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova on Facebook, referring to the "Je Suis Charlie" slogan used by the magazine's supporters after January’s massacre of 12 people at Charlie Hebdo’s Paris office, at the hands of Islamists furious at the magazine’s depictions of the Prophet Mohammed.



    Charlie Hebdo’s editor Gerard Biard was unrepentant, accusing the Kremlin of using the magazine “to create a controversy where none exists, which is the usual manipulation you get from totalitarian states”.

    "This magazine is supposed to be irreverent,” he told AFP. “And we respect the values of democracy and freedom of expression which the Russian powers that be, in this case, do not."

    "Their argument about sacrilege is absurd. Are we supposed to no longer comment on the news in a different way or to say nothing more than it's sad? If so that becomes a problem for freedom of expression."

    The French foreign ministry said in a statement that "journalists are free to express their opinions in France, the authorities do not get involved”.

    Both Washington and London say a bomb may have downed the Russian plane carrying tourists, mostly Russians but also a small number of Ukrainians, from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. However up until Friday, Cairo and Moscow had sought to downplay the suggestion of an attack.

    Since September 30, Russia has been launching air strikes against Syrian rebels, including (but not limited to) the IS group, in support of its Middle East ally Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.

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  • EU warships start migrant smuggler patrols as leaders urge unity

    07/Oct/2015 // 260 Viewers

    AFP / by Marine Laouchez | Refugees are transported to a German warship -- that is helping to capture migrant-smugglers trying to cross the Mediteranean Sea, on September 26, 2015



    European warships in the Mediterranean launched a new operation Wednesday to catch migrant smugglers as the leaders of Germany and France were to push for further EU action to cope with the refugee crisis.

    Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Francois Hollande will give a joint speech to the European Parliament, the first of its kind since 1989, in a bid to present an image of solidarity at a time of deep divisions in the EU.

    The military mission dubbed Operation Sophia involves six naval vessels in international waters off Libya with the power to stop, board, seize and destroy traffickers' boats in a bid to curb the worst crisis of its kind since World War II.

    - 'We want to arrest them' -


    Around 3,000 people have died making the perilous crossing over the Mediterranean to Europe this year, while over half a million have made the voyage, mostly landing in Greece and Italy.

    The first phase of the operation, which involved monitoring trafficker networks and rescuing refugees from rickety boats crossing the Mediterranean, has been running since June.

    "Assets will conduct boarding, search, seizure and diversion, on the high seas, of vessels suspected of being used for human smuggling or trafficking," the EU mission said in a statement.

    An Italian aircraft carrier, a French frigate and one British, one Spanish and two German ships are all involved in the mission, which follows in the footsteps of EU anti-piracy operations on the Horn of Africa.

    "We follow the traffickers and want to arrest them and seize their ships," Captain Stefan Klatt, who commands the Werra, one of the German ships that is taking part in the operation, told AFP.

    - Berlin Wall -


    The EU gave the go-ahead for the operation in international waters in September, but its ships are not, for now, allowed to pursue traffickers into Libyan waters.

    At least three other vessels supplied by the Belgian, British and Slovenian navies are expected to arrive in the area at the end of October to complete the force, which also include four aircraft and 1,318 personnel.

    But the operation is a drop in the ocean compared to the huge scale of a problem that has seen 630,000 migrants illegally enter the EU this year as people flee conflict in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Turkey is now the main launching point for migrants trying to enter Europe, and the EU on Tuesday offered Ankara a plan under which it would resettle more refugees if the Turks establish new camps and boosts its coastguard.

    With the European project creaking under the strain of the huge movement of desperate people, Merkel and Hollande were to issue a rallying cry in their speech to European lawmakers in Strasbourg.

    The last time the leaders of France and Germany stood together in parliament was 26 years ago when Francois Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl gave a similar speech just weeks after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

    They are expected to highlight a common and multifaceted solution to the crisis that calls for admitting tens of thousands of genuine refugees, tightening EU external borders and cracking down on smugglers.

    But Europe has been deeply divided over how to respond to the crisis, which in addition to the Mediterranean has seen a new front opening over the summer in Hungary and Croatia as migrants cross the Balkans

    Plans to relocate 160,000 refugees to other EU nations from overstretched Greece and Italy were only adopted last month after EU leaders overrode objections from eastern European states.

    The crisis has also fuelled the rise of nationalist and eurosceptic parties, as well as feeding the debate over Britain's membership of the EU, which is set to be put to a vote before the end of 2017.

    Two Iranians were arrested and remanded in custody after having walked through the Channel Tunnel from France to Britain, police said Wednesday, the latest in a series of breaches.

    by Marine Laouchez

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  • Oil falls after rise in US inventories, production

    07/Oct/2015 // 276 Viewers

     Getty/AFP/File | The Department of Energy's weekly petroleum numbers dented hopes for another drop in US output that could spell a general tightening of global supplies


    NEW YORK (AFP) - 

    Oil prices fell Wednesday after the release of the latest US oil data showed increasing inventories and an unexpected rebound in production.

    The Department of Energy's weekly petroleum numbers dented hopes for another drop in US output that could spell a general tightening of global supplies.

    New York's benchmark West Texas Intermediate (WTI) for delivery in November fell 72 cents to $47.81 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

    Brent North Sea crude for delivery in November, the global benchmark, closed at $51.33 a barrel in London, down 59 cents from Tuesday's settlement.

    WTI, which added more than $4 in the prior three sessions, had climbed to an intraday high above $49 Wednesday before the US government report knocked the wind out of the market.

    US crude output, which had fallen by 40,000 barrels per day in the previous week, unexpectedly rose by 76,000 barrels per day in the week to October 2.

    Commercial crude inventories jumped by 3.1 million barrels, more than the market estimate of 2.25 million barrels.

    That brought inventories to 461.0 million barrels, more than 27 percent higher than a year ago.

    Gasoline inventories grew by nearly two million barrels, exceeding expectations.

    Bart Melek of TD Securities said the high level of inventories pressured prices, but the rise in crude production was "the big negative" for the market.

    "Our view is the recent rally kind of unwinds," he said.

    Wells Fargo analysts said in a research report that "As the slow adjustments in supply and demand in the oil market persist, 2016 is likely to bring more large swings in prices, without much upward price trend."

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  • German troops to join anti-IS military campaign in Syria

    08/Dec/2015 // 353 Viewers

    PARIS, DECEMBER 8, 2015: All is now set for Germany to deploy 40 troops and two Tornado reconnaissance to join the anti-IS military campaign in Syria, DailyGlobeWatch has been reliably told.

    Under this arrangement, some military equipment comprising personnel will leave Jagel military base on Thursday. Among the equipment due to leave are six Tornadoes, an aerial refuelling jet which is to depart from Cologne-Wahn base to Incirlik airbase in Turkey.

    It would be recalled that the Bundestag has okayed the deployment of no fewer than 1,200 personnel to join the multi-national forces fighting IS militants in Syria in the wake of November 13 Paris attacks.

    Germany, our source disclosed, would not take part in the bombing campaign but would instead send a frigate to help guard the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle now in the eastern Mediterranean.





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  • Ukraine partially restores power supplies to Crimea

    08/Dec/2015 // 287 Viewers


    AFP/File | Crimea is almost entirely depends on Ukraine for its power and water supplies


    KIEV (AFP) - 

    Ukraine on Tuesday partially restored power supplies to Crimea after a series of explosions during protests by opponents of Russia's annexation of the peninsula damaged the high voltage lines.

    Electricity started flowing again along one of the four pylons destroyed during a wave of protests by Ukrainian far right groups and Crimean Tatars who complain of being persecuted by the Black Sea peninsula's new leadership.

    The repaired line provides only 15 percent of Crimea's needs and work on it was conducted "in agreement" with the protest groups, Ukraine's state power company said in a statement.

    The scenic peninsula of about two million people almost entirely depends on Ukraine for its power and water supplies.

    Russia this week announced the launch of an undersea power cable that could reduce the peninsula's dependence on Ukraine.

    But the line almost immediately overheated and plunged Crimea into darkness while emergency work by the Russians was being done.

    Kiev denies claims by Crimean leaders and Moscow that its Western-backed leadership was responsible for the pylons' collapse.

    Most Crimean Tatars -- a Turkic people with Mongolian roots -- opposed the region's annexation by Russia in the wake of the downfall of Ukraine's Moscow-backed president in February 2014


    Source: France24

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  • BREAKING: PUTIN orders Russian forces to “PREPARE FOR WAR”

    08/Feb/2017 // 8508 Viewers


    Putin is a walking paradox, and as such he makes any dealings with Russia very hard to either gauge or trust. On one hand, he is the Russian Orthodox Christian who worships the same God as many in the U.S, someone who really wants to defeat ISIS as much as any American, and someone who does have a right to not have American missiles on his “hate America” doormat.
    At the same time, he has been more than mildly suspected of poisoning a man to death, he enjoys having his submarines roam into U.S. waters, and he sends fighter jets to taunt American warships, the latter two of which could easily spark a confrontation that could lead to all-out war.
    Putin’s KGB ties are well known, as are his aspirations to salvage at least part of the glory and even a few of the ideas from when Russia was communist and more aggressive. To what degree Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet Union as some suggest is not known, but unfortunately, what is known is rather grim.
    It is being reported that Russia has increased their combat readiness not just in preparation for defense from an attack that Putin (with a truly manic and obsessive certainty) feels is coming from NATO/America, but also its offensive weapons.
    Nuclear armed warships have been moved in past months near Russia. Are we seeing a build up on the border near NATO forces as a lead up to war?
    The Russian president who the left claims is a friend of Trump’s (which now makes them all look quite foolish) has ordered what is called a “snap check” on Russian armed forces. This order was announced by Russian Foreign Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu who noted that the order is both to test their forces readiness to go to battle AND to fight; a nuance that has world-shattering implications and must NOT be overlooked.
    He then went on to say that “In accordance with the decision by the Armed Forces Supreme Commander, a snap check of the Aerospace Forces began to evaluate [sic] readiness of the control agencies and troops to carry out combat training tasks.”
    The only somewhat good news to be found in this is that Shoigu also said, “Special attention should be paid to combat alert, deployment of air defense systems for a time of war and air groupings’ readiness to repel the aggression” because it implies that Putin means if he is attacked. However, that implication could only be the half of it since it could mean that if NATO forces remain on his border and active, that may count as aggression in waiting, in which case he may attack first.
    The build up NATO forces near Russia’s border is causing the whole world to be put at risk…another world problem caused by radical Islam.
    There are two ways to read what Russia is doing and thinking here. It could be that Donald Trump is an unknown. We know what he has promised, we know that he claims to want to make America great again, and we know that he has only ever threatened to attack ISIS. Still, Trump has said also that he would never declare or even hint at an attack before it happens, so Russia may be worried that Trump will attack Russia from the nations where U.S. weapons sit on the ready. If this is the case, once Putin is at least sure that Trump is not a threat, some of this could die down depending on how the two leaders get along.
    The other option is that Putin is going to attack while America is distracted with a rough transition of power, leftist protests against Trump that Putin has helped fund, and vagina hats. If Putin is simply not taking any more of NATO not moving away as he has requested and as was promised to Russia by Ronald Reagan decades ago, then the world could easily see a nuclear war in a matter of moments. It is not known how Trump will handle Russian taunting if it arises like it did for Obama, a case which thankfully has not arisen, and hopefully shall not.
    Not since Ronald Reagan has the world so needed a good deal maker to make peace with the Great Bear.
    The world is watching and starting to again contemplate teaching children to cower under school desks as both the U.S.A and Russia build up their military. The scariest part is that both sides do have to rebuild for the very real war on terror that is here thanks to the likes of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and even Russia as well from their failed war in Afghanistan.
    Thanks to radical Islam, it is impossible for either Russia or the United States to accurately gauge which troop movements or weapons shipments are to fight terror or to fight one another. In this respect, if Trump was to defeat ISIS and really get our troops out of that part of the Middle East as he has promised, if he can get Putin to trust the U.S. long enough to do it, then the world may see peace yet.
    Trusting the U.S. may be quite hard for Putin due to things like him having to expel the George Soros-funded NGO’s from Russia who aimed to overthrow Putin from his duly elected post as well as the fact that America has a nasty reputation of toppling leaders who allow the U.S. to park in their yard. None of this, including the expulsion of Russian diplomats from the United States, was any of Donald Trump’s doing. Whether or not this has been reasoned through on the Russian side as they build up to fight is unknown.
    Russia was entering U.S. waters during Obama’s reign, disrespect that has not been repeated with Trump in office, thankfully.
    What that question points to is that it would be much better if Putin and Trump would talk before any more troops are moved anywhere. During the Cold War, it was not unusual for the U.S. to tell the Soviet Union where actions were taking place so that the Soviets were not wondering if the attack was for them. Still, at the worst of the Cold War such things were not always trusted and nuclear exchanges almost happened on more than few occasions.
    Even then, for the two nations to honor such a trust and to fight ISIS together, things need to thaw a lot between both sides. This, more than any wall or climate change page is going to be the most important thing that Trump was hired to do. Once ISIS is properly destroyed, Trump likely will remove the troops from Russian areas and many others for reasons that are far removed from Putin and more to do with need.
    God willing, we make it that long. - Conservative Daily Post

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  • British press condemn Blair’ ‘arrogance’ over Iraq war

    08/Jul/2016 // 455 Viewers


    Tony Blair pleaded with his critics to stop questioning his intentions over Britain’s disastrous war in Iraq, after a blistering verdict by the Chilcot inquiry — but commentators Thursday showed scant sympathy.
    “For his own sanity he still has to tell himself the world is ‘better and safer’ for him joining George Bush’s assault on Iraq. It is a monumental delusion,” said an editorial in The Sun, Britain’s top-selling paper.
    It added: “Blair does admit the post-war planning was a calamity. That is his only concession. He sees no reason to apologise for his decision to go to war and insists he’d do the same again.
    “He still believes he had no choice. You could have said no, Tony.”
    After the publication of the long-awaited inquiry report on Wednesday, Blair gave an emotional two-hour press conference in which he acknowledged mistakes but defended his intentions — and said he would do it again.
    Newspaper coverage on Thursday was scathing of the former Labour prime minister, who won three elections but stepped down in 2007, as Iraq collapsed into sectarian violence, with his reputation in tatters.
    Appearing close to tears, Blair had said he felt more sorrow than anyone could imagine for the conflict.
    In the left-learning Guardian, commentator Anne Perkins admitted that “it feels cheap at such a time to doubt someone’s sincerity”.
    “But I have seen him look stricken before -– and like millions of other voters, I don’t trust him any more,” she wrote, adding that he was guilty of “unbowed arrogance”.
    Michael Deacon, the sketch writer for the conservative Daily Telegraph, noted that Blair refused to apologise for the invasion.
    “What to make of it all? An honest plea for understanding from a broken man? Or a performance, an immaculately executed impersonation of one?” he wrote.
    John Crace, the sketch writer for the Guardian, said his performance showed sorrow mainly for himself.
    “Me, me me. The war hadn’t been about the 179 British soldiers and several hundred thousand Iraqis who died. It had been about him all along,” he wrote.
    Drawing on Monty Python’s comic film “Life of Brian”, he added: “Tony’s eyes burned with the conviction of martyrdom. He wasn’t a naughty boy, he was the Messiah.
    “And he was heaven-bent on carrying on fighting a war he lost long ago.”
    Trevor Kavanagh, associate editor of The Sun, said Blair “was always obsessed with legacy as prime minister”.
    “He may have hoped it would be as a US war hero with all the lucrative benefits associated with it,” he wrote.
    “Instead he will be remembered for inflicting a terrorist firestorm on a fragile and unstable world.”

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  • Croatia goes to the polls facing migrant wave, economy woes

    08/Nov/2015 // 334 Viewers

    ZAGREB (AFP) - 

    Croatians began voting in a general election Sunday with conservatives aspiring to return to power, as the EU nation faces a wave of migrants and slowly emerges from six years of recession.

    Opinion polls predict a tight race between the ruling centre-left alliance, led by Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic's Social Democrats (SDP), and the rival conservative 'Patriotic Coalition', in Croatia's first parliamentary election since it joined the European Union in 2013.

    Neither camp is expected to win an outright majority in the 151-seat parliament, making it likely that the government's make-up will be decided in post-election talks with smaller parties.

    The polls opened at 7:00 am (0600 GMT) and are set to close 12 hours later, with 3.8 million Croatians eligible to vote.

    The ruling coalition, in power since 2011, has been blamed for failing to reform the country's inefficient public sector or improve the business climate in Croatia, one of the EU's weakest economies.

    The conservative HDZ, the leading opposition party, was boosted in January by the victory of its candidate Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic in the presidential election.

    But the ruling 'Croatia is Growing' coalition has since closed the gap in the opinion polls, amid weak economic growth and the introduction of populist measures, such as a law converting Swiss franc loans into euros to help struggling borrowers.

    Milanovic also seems to have earned support over his policy towards refugees transiting through Croatia to Slovenia, by both showing compassion and pledging to defend national interests.

    Nearly 350,000 migrants have passed through Croatia since mid-September on their way to northern Europe, after Hungary closed its border with Serbia.

    The opposition has accused the government of lacking control since the start of the influx, but does not appear to have capitalised on the crisis.

    - 'Battle for Croatia!' -

    The HDZ was ousted in 2011 amid a series of unprecedented scandals involving its former leader and ex-prime minister Ivo Sanader.

    The party has dominated Croatian politics since the former Yugoslav republic proclaimed independence in 1991, a move that sparked a four-year war with rebel Serbs.

    HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko has run an electoral campaign heavy in patriotic rhetoric, glorifying his party's late founder and 'Father of the Nation', Franjo Tudjman.

    "This is a battle for Croatia!" he declared at a 15,000-strong rally on Thursday, intimating that his SDP rivals, with communist roots in the former Yugoslavia, were anti-independence.

    The government has meanwhile consistently accused the opposition of corruption.

    "People are above all concerned with the economy... but neither of the two parties was giving real answers to those key issues," independent political consultant Davor Gjenero told AFP.

    Although a return to growth of nearly one percent is expected this year, public debt stands at nearly 90 percent of gross domestic product and unemployment at 16.2 percent in September -- 43.1 percent among youths.

    Some fed-up voters are opting for smaller parties such as newcomer Most (meaning 'Bridge' in Croatian), which could end up playing a key role in post-election negotiations.

    "Both the HDZ and SDP have failed. The key is to reform bureaucracy and open jobs," said political sciences student Fabijan, 21, at a Most party rally this week.

    by Lajla Veselica

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  • UK to lay cards on the table over EU referendum

    08/Nov/2015 // 382 Viewers

    After months without a breakthrough, David Cameron will finally give more details on Tuesday of what reforms he wants for Britain to stay in the European Union before a looming referendum.

    Nearly three years after promising a vote before the end of 2017, the British prime minister will deliver his shopping list in a letter to EU president Donald Tusk, which is expected to be made public.

    The letter comes ahead of a crunch European summit in Brussels next month and amid hopes that the British referendum on whether to remain an EU member state can be held next year.

    Cameron will warn in a speech Tuesday that if Britain's concerns are met with a "deaf ear", he will have to "think again about whether this European Union is right for us." "I rule nothing out," he will add, according to pre-released extracts.

    His Europe Minister David Lidington told journalists last week not to expect too much new detail in the letter, adding it would be "ambitious" to hope for a deal at December's summit.

    "My advice to the prime minister has always been don't publish a detailed negotiating position," he said.

    He also highlighted that there would have to be four months between any deal being agreed and the vote being held, for legislative reasons.

    - 'Wants to appease eurosceptics' -

    Gabriel Siles-Brügge, a politics lecturer at Manchester University, said Cameron had always been "a bit vague" in his demands because he is carrying out "a difficult balancing act".

    "He wants to appease eurosceptics in his own party while avoiding Brexit (British exit from EU). But he is of course now being pushed by EU leaders to concretise his proposals," he told AFP.

    "That may lead to the former being disappointed because the proposals aren't intended to push Britain towards Brexit but rather to allow him to proclaim a symbolic victory over Brussels and campaign for continued membership."

    John Springford of the Centre For European Reform highlighted that Cameron first promised a referendum in 2013, when the anti-EU UK Independence Party was surging and his position looked shaky.

    His Conservatives subsequently won a House of Commons majority in elections this year while UKIP managed to win just one seat.

    "The strategy was a political one, designed for domestic political reasons," he added. "I really don't think Cameron went into that speech with a clear view of what reform he even wanted from the EU."

    - Four key areas -

    In recent weeks, European partners have put increasing pressure on Cameron to lay out in more detail what kind of reforms he wants.

    He has long identified four broad areas where he wants to see reforms -- improving competitiveness, greater "fairness" between eurozone and non-eurozone nations, sovereignty issues including an exemption from the aspiration of ever-closer union and making it harder for migrants to claim benefits.

    When Cameron's de facto deputy and possible successor, finance minister George Osborne, gave a speech in Berlin last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel conceded that Britain had "justified concerns" on competitiveness and streamlining and stressed she wanted to help prevent a Brexit.

    Experts say there is room for compromise in all areas except migration, where Cameron wants to stop EU migrants, including those in work, from claiming certain state benefits for four years after arriving in Britain.

    "In the UK, this is one of the key issues if not the key issue as far as the public is concerned," said Stephen Booth, co-director of think-tank Open Europe.

    "Other EU member states have to be aware that if they are unable to accommodate UK concerns, it could certainly have an effect on the campaign here."

    This will be particularly tough to achieve agreement on because of non-discrimination principles in EU legislation.

    A failure by Cameron, who has said he will step down as prime minister by 2020, to achieve what he wants over benefits would be particularly damaging to him and his centre-right Conservative party.

    "The public doesn't care about ever-closer union," said Springford. "The EU is still quite low down on the list of priorities. Immigration is much higher."

    Source: AFP

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  • Russia sends fleet of planes to bring home tourists

    08/Nov/2015 // 370 Viewers

    Russia will send a fleet of 44 planes to Egypt on Saturday to help repatriate some 80,000 tourists left stranded after Moscow cancelled all flights to the country in the wake of last weekend’s jet crash in the Sinai peninsula, officials said.

    Thirty empty planes would be sent to Hurghada, and 14 would be sent to Sharm El-Sheikh, the two Red Sea resorts where most Russian holidaymakers are staying, the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency said in a statement.

    Russia halted flights to Egypt on Friday amid growing fears that the Russian jet that crashed on October 31 over the Sinai peninsula with 224 people on board was bombed.

    Officials said earlier Saturday that Russian tourists will still be able to finish their holidays in Egypt and return at their own pace.

    “Tourists will be returning from Egypt to Russia when they planned to,” said Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, who is in charge of a task force set up to oversee the return of tourists.

    “Most people left for two weeks – our usual holiday tour lasts two weeks – therefore they will return in about two weeks,” he said in televised comments late Friday.

    In a statement, the labour ministry warned companies against taking any disciplinary action against employees who are now in Egypt and may be unable to show up for work on time.

    As part of the crisis response, the Federal Tourism Agency said its representatives would be dispatched to Cairo, Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada to help tourists.

    Following Britain’s example, Russia said that holidaymakers would be returning home without their hold luggage, which will be brought back to the country separately.

    The emergencies ministry Saturday was set to send two planes, one to Hurghada and another one to Sharm el-Sheikh, to pick up tourists’ luggage.

    Cockpit recorder reveals noise heard just before crash

    Russia halted flights to Egypt after initially dismissing growing evidence that the plane might have been bombed by jihadists in an apparent act of revenge for Moscow’s bombing campaign in Syria.


    President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman insisted the decision to suspend flights did not mean that Moscow believed the crash was caused by a deliberate attack.

    However, a number of Western officials and governments have said in recent days that the crash could have been caused by a bomb, possibly smuggled on board in hold luggage.

    Prime Minister David Cameron has said it was "more than likely" that the crash was caused by a bomb, while Sinai Peninsula, an affiliate of the Islamic State group, has claimed responsibility for bringing down the plane.

    However, Egypt has sought to downplay the possibility of a terrorist attack and rebuked those who have speculated on the cause of the crash while an investigation is still ongoing.

    The head of an investigation committee into the crash said at a press conference Saturday that a cockpit recording from the plane registered a noise in the last second of the recording.

    But the committee head, Ayman al-Muqaddam, said experts were still gathering information and it was too soon to announce conclusions from their work.

    France 24’s correspondent in Cairo, Amira Ashraf, said the timing of Saturday’s press conference was ‘strange’, particularly as it revealed little in the way of new information.

    “They [Egypt] were under pressure to issue a statement and not sharing anything is, I think, a sign of worry by the Egyptian authorities,” Ashraf said.

    British tourists stranded

    Britain was the first country to announce it was suspending flights to and from Sharm al-Sheikh, the airport from which the doomed Russian jet took off before crashing shortly after.

    The move led to chaotic scenes at Sharm al-Sheikh airport as British tourists waited to board flights home.

    Plans to return some of the around 20,000 British tourists in Sharm al-Sheikh on Friday were thrown into confusion when Egypt said only eight of the planned 29 flights to take the Britons home would be able to operate, citing capacity limits at Sharm al-Sheikh airport and British airliners’ refusal to take passenger luggage in the hold.

    A British official at the Egyptian Red Sea resort told Reuters on Saturday that the country hopes to return all of its stranded tourists within 10 days.

    The British government is increasing the number of flights and will return about 2,000 nationals on Saturday on nine planes, the official added.

    The official said British passengers would check in their luggage as usual but it would be transported separately on a different plane. Holidaymakers should have their luggage back within five to seven days.

    “We’ve got good cooperation now which will allow us to get people home as soon as possible,” John Casson, Britain’s ambassador to Egypt, told BBC television.

    “We have measures in place now which allow us to say it’s safe to fly home ... We’ll do it in a way that’s convenient and as quick as possible,” he said.

    Source: AFP; Reuters

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