Photo: TASS / Maxim Grigoriev
The exact causes of the disaster are not yet known.
Note that today there is no exact certainty about what caused the plane crash. According to the initial data, which were disseminated by the media, the cause could be a technical malfunction, since the crew of the aircraft seemed to complain about the malfunction a week before the last flight. However, later information began to appear that the plane could have died as a result of a terrorist act. And this is despite the fact that the head of the Egyptian commission for the investigation of the plane crash, Ayman al-Muqaddam, said that so far the special services have not been able to establish the true causes of the plane crash, since not all the debris were found. However, the head of the commission said that the black box of the aircraft recorded a suspicious noise. But so far it is impossible to say for sure whether this noise was caused by an explosion on board the aircraft or not. However, the French television channel France 2, referring to an Egyptian investigator who had access to the investigation of the crash, reported that an explosion occurred on board the aircraft, which was clearly not related to engine failure or any other technical problems. Thus, the channel said that in fact the plane was blown up, which may indicate a possible terrorist act against air transport.
Who could benefit from a terrorist act against a civilian plane carrying absolutely peaceful people - Russian tourists, rested at the resorts of Egypt and returned to their homeland? First of all, suspicions fall on the Islamic State terrorist organization banned in the Russian Federation in accordance with a court decision, especially since in recent days the Western media regularly report that the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack . The territory over which the liner crashed, according to media reports, is the zone of the anti-terrorist operation of the Egyptian armed forces against the group calling itself the "Sinai Province of the Islamic State."
The unstable situation in the Sinai Peninsula is due to a whole set of historical, political, cultural and economic factors. First, the Sinai Peninsula has always been characterized by economic backwardness and the unsatisfactory, low standard of living of the local population resulting from it. Secondly, the population of the Sinai Peninsula has a number of cultural differences from the population of the main part of Egypt. These are Palestinians, including refugees from the Palestinian state, and Bedouins. These population groups have always been distinguished by increased susceptibility to various radical ideas, especially against the background of the general socio-economic backwardness of the region and the lack of prospects for young people. Unlike the rest of the Egyptians, the inhabitants of the Sinai Peninsula are practically unrelated to the tourist business. The absence of tourist facilities in almost the entire Sinai Peninsula (except for its south) also makes it impossible for local residents to work in the tourism sector. Meanwhile, for young Egyptians, there is practically no other possibility of a real improvement in their well-being, except to get a job in the tourist sector. Sinai youth do not have this opportunity either. Accordingly, their well-being is not directly related to the presence or absence of foreign tourists, so they are rather indifferent to maintaining stability in the region. But, the inhabitants of Sinai were never alien to criminal activity, which was to control trade routes and smuggling. They did not disdain and robberies. The Bedouin clans of the Sinai Peninsula traditionally controlled the smuggling of various goods, including illegal ones. Naturally, the social environment of the Sinai Peninsula was quite fertile ground for the spread of radical sentiment and, moreover, for the revitalization of extremist activity. Radicals have always viewed the Sinai Peninsula as a strategically convenient region, especially paying attention to its importance for terrorist attacks against neighboring Israel. Therefore, there is nothing surprising in the fact that it was the Sinai Peninsula that became the site of the presence of a large number of radicals. Moreover, the Egyptian law enforcement agencies have always poorly controlled this desert territory. By the way, in the specificity of the socio-economic and political situation of the Sinai Peninsula there is a certain degree of guilt of the Egyptian leadership, which has never shown proper attention to the development of this peripheral territory and questions of organizing life and improving the well-being of its population.
The armed conflict on the Sinai Peninsula began as early as 2011, when, as a result of the Arab Spring, hundreds of religious radicals released from Egyptian prisons rushed there, forming a local unit of the Islamic State and a number of other radical groups. It should be noted that the number of groups is very large, and their activities are decentralized. It is known that armed groups of the following radical organizations are present on the Sinai Peninsula: 1) Vilayat Sinai (branch of the Islamic State, established on the basis of the radical organization Ansair Bayt al-McDhas), 2) Al-Qaida, 3 ) “Al-Jihad”, 4) “At-Takfir Wal Hijra”, 5) “Jaish al-Islam”, 5) “Jund al-Islam”, 6) “Supporters of Jundallah”, 7) “Shabab al- Islam ”, 8)“ Ansar al-Sharia ”, 9)“ Tauhid v-Jihad ”, 10)“ Council of the Mujahideen Shuras ”, 11)“ Majlis Shura al-Mujahidin fi-Aknaf Bayt al-Makdas ”, XNUM X) “The army of al-Jaljal”, 12) “Salafi jihad at Sinai”, 13) “Muslim Brotherhood”. In addition, the bases of the famous Hamas movement, which until recently had good relations with the Egyptian leadership, were located on the Sinai Peninsula for a long time. Hamas as a more serious political movement has repeatedly appealed to the Egyptian leadership to address the socio-economic problems of the region, but did not receive the proper response. In recent years, the relationship between Hamas and the Egyptian authorities has deteriorated, since the latter accused the organization of assisting terrorist groups and in cooperating with extremist organizations in Egypt.
The bulk of the militants of the radical groups operating in the Sinai Peninsula are local Bedouins and Palestinians, as well as people from Libya and Yemen who have moved to Sinai. Extremist activity is most active in the sparsely populated areas of Central and Northern Sinai. Here, militants of radical groups have dug a large number of underground tunnels and shelters, which are used for smuggling weapons from Gaza to Egypt, as well as shelters. The tunnels are pulled out of abandoned houses, but the Egyptian troops periodically destroy the underground structures of the militants, so the latter will have to build new underground communications.
Despite the fact that the fighting has been going on for four years, Egyptian government troops are not yet able to suppress the resistance of radical groups. This is due to the fact that for a long time, according to the Camp David Agreement, Egypt could deploy only very limited army units in the Sinai Peninsula. Only on August 14, 2011, after a sharp complication of the situation in the Middle East, did the leadership of Egypt obtain permission from neighboring Israel to enter the Sinai Peninsula with additional military units tasked with destroying the local radical underground. In the Sinai, there are constant battles between radicals and Egyptian government forces, using armored vehicles and aviation. Back in March 2015, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration announced the danger of flying over the Sinai Peninsula, where radicals are fighting with Egyptian government troops. According to this statement, flights at altitudes below 26000 feet are the most dangerous, since at this distance aircraft of foreign airlines can become a target for hitting anti-aircraft missile systems of radical groups. Later, the European Aviation Safety Agency made a similar statement. At the same time, it is known that the Russian airliner flew at a high altitude, and the militants fighting in Sinai, according to intelligence agencies, do not have the necessary weapons to hit targets at that altitude.
The version of the attack is very common
Another thing is that on board the aircraft at Sharm el-Sheikh airport could be brought explosives, as well as among the passengers could be a suicide bomber. Moreover, religious-extremist groups often use just such a method of destroying aircraft. Recall that in 2004, two Russian aircraft were blown up with the help of suicide bombers who got on board. It is quite likely that the Islamic State could have carried out a similar operation, especially considering that in the ranks of this organization there are a large number of men and women who are ready to play the role of suicide bombers. The fact that the responsibility for the attack took the Egyptian branch of the IG, reported AFP. Indeed, it is impossible to dismiss this version, especially since the IG, after the start of the Russian military-air operation in Syria, has every reason to hold a grudge against the Russian state and bear plans for terrible revenge. The aerospace forces of the Russian Federation, which strike at the positions of IS militants and other radical groups in Syria, do indeed cause serious damage to this terrorist organization. It is known that immediately after the announcement of the crash of a Russian airliner in the sky over the Sinai Peninsula, the largest European airlines Air France and Luftansa announced the termination of flights of their vehicles over the Sinai Peninsula, explaining this decision by flight safety considerations. Although European airlines do not close the air communication with Egypt yet, but its routes, and possibly the intensity, will undergo serious changes after the crash of the Russian airliner.
Investigating the possible causes of the crash of a Russian airliner, a number of European media paid close attention to the specifics of organizing security measures at airports in Egypt and, in particular, at the airport of Sharm el-Sheikh, from where a Kogalymavia aircraft flew on its last flight. As the journalists of the Associated Press reported, airport staff told them that they had repeatedly drawn attention to the malfunction of the passenger baggage scanning device, but the airport managers did not attach any importance to these messages. It also became known that the baggage scanning process was carried out selectively, and many bags and suitcases were not scanned. Note - and this is in conditions of increased danger of terrorist attacks in the countries of the Middle East! In addition, one of the airport employees told reporters that the police, who were supposed to directly ensure the safety of the airport, took bribes from passengers and let them pass on planes with weapons and drugs. Similarly, due diligence of fuel and food delivered to the airport for departing flights, as well as inspection of people involved in the delivery of fuel and food, was not carried out. Another Western publication, the British The Independent, reported that although there was video surveillance at the airport, the security officer who was carrying it out could have been completely absent from the workplace, which made it possible to carry any items without control. Also, according to the publication, some of the surveillance cameras at Sharm el-Sheikh simply did not work. Therefore, with such a level of security organization at the airport, there is nothing surprising in the fact that intruders could infiltrate the plane and activate any terrible plan. If the data of this investigation are true, then many questions arise to the leadership of the Egyptian law enforcement and security services who have served at Sharm el-Sheikh airport.
The fact that the Russian plane could become the object of a terrorist attack by one of the radical groups, despite the absence of official statements about it, was reported by many Western media. But their interest in the version of the terrorist act is quite explicable by political considerations. After all, the West is interested in stopping the Russian operation in Syria, and promotion of the version of the terrorist act, as certain political circles of the United States and the European Union expect, can contribute to changing the position of Russia on the Syrian issue. At least in Russia, public opinion may rise against the participation of the Russian air force in a campaign against radical groups in Syria. Secondly, Russia will inevitably have, in this case, questions to the Egyptian side, and the Russian Federation has very good relations with Egypt lately. They are based, among other things, on economic cooperation between the two states. The Russian Federation is the most important partner of the Egyptian side in the field of tourism business, since it is Russian tourists that make up a significant part of foreign citizens visiting Egypt for tourist purposes. Only in the current 2015 year, at least two million Russian citizens have visited the resorts of Egypt. For many Russians, Egypt has long been a major holiday destination, eclipsing other resorts in popularity. The demand for Egyptian tours especially increased with the onset of currency inflation and the deteriorating financial situation of many Russian families, who now were unable to organize their holidays at more expensive resorts in South and Southeast Asia or the Caribbean.
Flights to Egypt stopped
The development of Russian-Egyptian tourist ties began in the 1990-s. The relative popularity of the Egyptian resorts, combined with the rich history of the “country of the pyramids” and excellent beaches, which ensured the interest of Russian tourists, contributed to the growing popularity. Even the events of the “Arab Spring” 2011, when the internal political situation in Egypt was seriously aggravated, did not cause the cessation of the demand for Egyptian resorts among Russian tourists. It is understandable - on the cheap rest with Egypt can compete, perhaps, Turkey. But Turkey is still a subtropical country, which means that with the onset of autumn, the climatic conditions in the Turkish resorts do not contribute to beach rest. At least, for those people who love a hot vacation in the sun, with a sea tan and unforgettable impressions of bathing in the warm sea. Violation of the tourist interaction between Russia and Egypt is a serious blow to both the domestic tourism business and the Egyptian economy. However, it is difficult to disagree with the fact that if the lives of Russian citizens are at stake, a temporary suspension of tourist ties with Egypt will simply be necessary to ensure the national security of the Russian state.
6 November it became known that President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin at a meeting of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee agreed with the opinion of its Chairman and Director of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation Alexander Bortnikov on the temporary suspension of all flights of Russian aircraft to Egypt. At a meeting of the NJSC, Bortnikov stated that it is advisable to suspend flights of Russian aviation to Egypt until the true causes of the tragedy have been established. Naturally, the first flight will be terminated for tourist purposes. The head of state agreed with the opinion of the head of the special services and ordered the government to work out the mechanisms necessary for the implementation of the recommendations of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee. In addition to the termination of the aviation communication with Egypt, an instruction was given to ensure the return to the homeland of citizens of the Russian Federation residing in the territory of this country. At the same time, the head of the National Anti-Terrorism Committee stressed that the work on the return of Russian citizens in Egypt should be carried out carefully and the time required for its full implementation. It was also noted that the Egyptian side is doing everything possible to provide assistance in investigating the circumstances of the plane crash over Sinai.
In the Federal Air Transport Agency reported that the agency began work on the suspension of aviation links with Egypt. From 20.00 on Friday 6 in November 2015, the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation interrupted aviation communication with Egypt. All scheduled, transit and charter flights to Egypt were banned, and telegrams were sent to all nine Russian airlines flying to Egypt and to all twenty airports that received and sent airplanes to the “country of pyramids”. Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Government Arkady Dvorkovich said that ““ it’s still premature to call specific dates. The work of auditing and developing security controls begins today. In any case, we are talking about a period of at least several weeks, but how many weeks, it is too early to say. We will work together with our Egyptian partners "(Quoted from: http://www.gazeta.ru/social/news/2015/11/08/n_7861781.shtml). Thus, the flight connection with Egypt is interrupted for a really impressive period and this cannot but remain without consequences for both Egypt and the Russian Federation. Therefore, we will take a closer look at the question of how this decision of the Russian leadership will affect the current state and development prospects of the Russian tourist business.
Implications for Russian tourism
The “lowest” level of the consequences of this decision has already been felt by consumers - Russian tourists who are resting in Egypt or were going to rest in this country in the near future. On instructions from the Russian leadership, a special operational headquarters for the return of Russian tourists to their homeland was immediately formed in the “Rosturizm”. The structure of this structure included not only officials, but also representatives of the largest travel companies in the country and the Association "Tourist Assistance". This was reported to the representatives of the media by the head of Rostourism, Oleg Safonov. It is known that by the beginning of November 2015 in the resorts of Egypt there were at least 70 thousands of citizens of the Russian Federation. These figures are called journalists in the Association of Tour Operators of Russia. Rostourism announced 79 to thousands of Russian tourists in Egyptian resorts. It is clear that taking so many tourists from Egypt to Russia will not work in a short time. For this task it is necessary to use a large number of air transport and flight personnel. Naturally, the solution of such a large-scale task will require at least a month. On the other hand, the question of compensation for those tourists who have not fully used their vouchers will inevitably be raised. After all, people went to rest for ten, twenty days, and they were evacuated from Egypt after a few days of rest — naturally, many of the tourists would demand compensation from the travel companies. In a similar situation, there were also Russian citizens who had already purchased vouchers to rest in Egypt - before the time when the plane crash occurred in the sky over Sinai. Before the flight connection with Egypt was interrupted, many Russians had already managed to buy tickets and arrive at the airports. Moreover, some of them came from far away - say, from Siberian or Ural settlements to Moscow and other cities of the European part of Russia. Of course, Russian tour operators and responsible government agencies will decide whether to place and transport them back home, or provide tours to other countries of the world, but also, as in the first case, the question of compensation, material and moral damage will inevitably arise. To this end, by the way, in the regions of the country from which the flight to Egypt was carried out, hotlines of the Russian Emergencies Ministry and Rospotrebnadzor are operating. According to Irina Tyurina, who is the press secretary of the Russian Union of Travel Industry (PCT), Russian citizens who decided not to change their country of rest can realize their unused vouchers to Egypt for a year. However, as it turned out, about 20-30% of Russian tourists have already agreed to go instead of Egypt to some other country. Such figures were voiced by the Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Government, Arkady Dvorkovich.
A more serious problem is the loss of the Russian tourist business of colossal revenues from tourist flights to Egypt. As noted above, Egypt, along with Turkey, was one of the most popular destinations for Russian tourists. Even the financial problems of the Russians and the exacerbation of the political situation in the Middle East did not entail a sharp reduction in the number of tourists heading for Egypt. So, according to the Federal Tourism Agency, only in the first six months of the 2015 of the year 1,054 million Russians visited Egypt, which is 13,4% less than in the same period last year. In Turkey, there was a decrease in the number of tourists by 25,7% - that is, almost two times more than in Egypt. As a result, in Turkey for the first six months 2015 was visited by only 1, 031 million Russian citizens. That is, Egypt turned out to be this year even more attractive place for the rest of Russian citizens than Turkey, which has always kept a palm on the number of tourist trips. Egypt accounted for a huge market volume of travel vouchers, which amounted to about 140 million US dollars monthly. And this is despite the fact that, in general, Egypt remained the most affordable holiday destination for Russian citizens. Replacing the resorts of Egypt at least approximately cheap and suitable for climatic conditions will be very problematic. First of all, because Egypt was the most popular budget place for winter recreation. In November - December of each year, the demand for trips to Egypt increased as much as possible, since people went to rest on the Red Sea beaches, as in Turkey and Cyprus, not to mention the Russian Black Sea or Crimean resorts, the beach holiday at this time of year The form was impossible.
Is there a substitute for Egyptian resorts?
Theoretically, you can replace Egypt with the sea resorts of Israel and Jordan, however, we note that, firstly, this is the same direction of flights, the same unstable Middle East. Secondly, the cost of travel vouchers to Israel will definitely be more expensive than to Egypt, and as for Jordan, its tourist infrastructure cannot be compared with the Egyptian one. Another direction of the Russian winter beach holiday is the countries of South and Southeast Asia. Traditionally, a large number of Russian tourists also traveled to Goa (India), Thailand and Bali (Indonesia), but the cost of trips to resorts in Southeast and South Asia is much more expensive than in Egypt. Actually, people of greater affluence flew to Thailand or Indonesia to rest than to Egypt or Turkey. Therefore, it is unlikely that those who rested in Egypt will be able, without significant financial expenses for their family budget, to change the place of rest for the expensive resorts of Southeast and South Asia. About the Caribbean countries and the islands of the Pacific Ocean, where there are also beautiful beaches for rest, you can not even say - the price of rest there has never been "elevated" for the average Russian who could afford a vacation in Egypt or Turkey. Therefore, now the Russian tour operators offer tourists, flying to Egypt, to change at minimal cost, or even without it, trips, choosing Turkey or Cyprus as a holiday destination. But many citizens refuse to fly to these countries, as they counted on the hot climate of the Red Sea beaches, and not on the Mediterranean temperature in 18-22 degrees. But if the ban on aviation with Egypt will last for several months, then the Russians will have no choice but to look for other options for the autumn and winter holidays.
How could the ban on air travel with Egypt affect the Russian tourist cluster? In recent years, much has been said about the fact that domestic resorts, provided they reach a new level of service, may in the long run replace holidays abroad. First of all, we are talking about the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus, and from 2014 - and the Crimea. Improving the tourism infrastructure can raise the level of Russian resorts, although so far many of them remain almost more expensive than foreign resorts - and this despite the fact that the quality of service is often inferior abroad. But it is also obvious that the Crimean and Caucasian coast is not able to replace foreign resorts in organizing a winter beach holiday. Most of the Caucasian and Crimean resorts in winter actually cease to operate. The exceptions are ski resorts, which also attract a large number of tourists. But, first, the category of tourists - lovers of mountain recreation and lovers of beach holiday is somewhat different. These categories do not always overlap, so many beach lovers will never accept the offer to go to mountain resorts instead of beach ones. Secondly, the majority of Russian travel companies will not be able to quickly adapt to the organization of recreation in the mountains, especially since this market niche is also occupied by other companies. Therefore, we should not seriously consider the idea of replacing rest on Egyptian beaches with a vacation in the mountains of the Crimea and the Caucasus. Equally, they will not be able to cover the costs of travel companies and tours of the Golden Ring and other attractions of Central Russia, the Urals, Siberia, and the Far East. Of course, much depends on the advertising of travel companies and on the effectiveness of their activities in changing tourist destinations.
Meanwhile, the decline in travel company profits from travel to Egypt is a serious blow to their income, which will inevitably affect people working in this field, many of whom, even for a short time, may simply lose their jobs. Finally, significant funds from travel companies remained in Egypt - from the hotel business, and also in Russia - from airlines.
The question of whether it will be possible to achieve at least a part of these funds or not will be very debatable. Another serious problem is the relationship with Egypt. Recall that back in 2011, as a result of the events of the “Arab Spring” and the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, the Russian Federation was forced to temporarily interrupt the air communication with Egypt. 1 February 2011 Russian airlines Transaero and Aeroflot stopped their air communication with Egyptian airports in Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh. Somewhat later, it was announced - in accordance with the requirements of Rostourism - about the complete cessation of aviation communication with Egyptian resorts. However, this measure did not last long. Already in early April, the aviation link with Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh was gradually restored. The company Pegas Touristik was the first to restore communication with Egyptian resorts in the form of charter flights. However, in 2013, the flight connection with Egypt was again partially discontinued. This time, the Russian airlines stopped delivering tourists to Egyptian resorts because of the sharp exacerbation of the political situation in the country - as you know, in September 2013, there were armed clashes between the government forces of Egypt and supporters of the deposed president Mohammed Mursi. At the end of August 2013, the Russian tour operators stopped selling vouchers to Egypt with departure after 1 September 2013, but in October 2013, the air communication with the Egyptian resorts was resumed. However, the reasons for the termination of aviation communication with the Egyptian resorts in 2011 and 2013. were not as serious as in 2015. Now, it seems, the leadership of the Russian Federation decided to stop flights to Egypt precisely for security reasons of many thousands of Russians.
Ban on flights in the light of Russian-Egyptian relations
Egyptian authorities have already expressed concern about the consequences of a plane crash of a Russian aircraft for the country's tourism business. This was stated by the spokesman for the Ministry of Tourism of Egypt Rush Azizi. For Egypt, tourism is the most important source of income in foreign currency to the country's budget. The economy of Egypt, due to the political situation in the country which had been destabilized over the past five years, was severely damaged. Since the days of the Arab Spring, many foreign tourists have refused to go to Egypt, fearing for their safety and preferring other, calmer countries. However, Russian tourists until recently accounted for a third of all foreign tourists who visited Egyptian resorts, primarily because of the cheapness of the latter and their promotion in Russia. So, in 2014, Egypt was visited by 9,9 million foreign tourists, of whom about a third were citizens of the Russian Federation. Thus, the ban on aviation links with Egypt will deprive the Egyptian tourism sector of the income from millions of Russian tourists. Especially if we take into account that it was the autumn and winter months that were in the greatest demand among Russian tourists, and thanks to the autumn-winter flights, the Egyptian budget received significant financial replenishment, and Russian travel companies significantly expanded their revenues.
At the same time, it is highly unlikely that Egyptian-Russian relations will deteriorate due to the termination of the air traffic. The fact is that under the current Egyptian President Field Marshal Abudl-Fattah Khalil Al-Sisi, Russian-Egyptian relations have seriously improved. Field Marshal Sisi visited the Victory Parade in Moscow 9 in May 2015, while many foreign leaders, in the context of sanctions against Russia, refused to go to festive events. Russia is developing and deepening military, political and economic cooperation with Egypt, so the Egyptian leadership fully understands the reasons that prompted Moscow to announce the termination of its air service. Naturally, the Egyptian authorities will regret this decision, but Cairo has no other way out. According to representatives of the Russian leadership, the Egyptian authorities are taking the most effective part in the evacuation of Russian citizens from the country. In particular, the control over the airports from which the evacuation is carried out is taken by representatives of the Egyptian military. Thus, Deputy Prime Minister A. Dvorkovich said: “Our Egyptian friends have already taken the first steps, the military have already taken control of all passenger clearance procedures, they are present in Sharm el-Sheikh and other airports and minimize uncontrolled actions, which, judging in the opinion of tourists, previously present at a number of airports, we see the goodwill of our friends, our colleagues to minimize all such incidents, to eliminate threats to the safety of life and health of people ”(Quoted from: http://tass.ru/obschestvo/2415837). It is likely that the cessation of the flow of Russian tourists to Egypt will also contribute to the intensification of the efforts of the country's military authorities to combat radical groups, whose actions can seriously damage the economic and political interests of the Egyptian state.