A Russian passenger, reported to have an improvised explosive device (IED) in his possession, was arrested last Thursday at Alexandria’s Borg Al-Arab airport while attempting to board a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul, reports Ahmed Morsy.
The Russian, later identified as an electrical engineer in the Russian Civil Aviation Authority, has been detained for four days pending investigations.
According to the Russian news agency TASS, the suspect was found to be carrying a can of carbonated beverage, wires and electronic chips in his suitcase. He has denied the charges, saying he was carrying cables which he uses for work. The Russian Consulate General has also confirmed the man was not in possession of explosives.
A security source within Borg Al-Arab airport told Al-Ahram Arabic news website that the incident “is probably an attempt on the part of the Russian authorities to test security measures at Egyptian airports”.
Russia suspended all flights to Egypt in November 2015 after a Russian Airbus A321, flying from Sharm El-Sheikh to St Petersburg, crashed over Sinai shortly after taking off killing all 224 people on board. Islamic State claimed responsibility for downing the aircraft. The flight ban accelerated the downturn in Egypt’s tourism industry, a major source of hard currency. Before the crash Russians accounted for a third of all tourists visiting Egypt.
Egypt has subsequently spent millions of dollars upgrading security measures at airports.
Earlier this year Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev said “resumption of flights depends on the implementation of aviation safety requirements by the Egyptian side.”
Valentina Matviyenko, the chairperson of the Russian Federation Council, said during a recent meeting with Egyptian Parliament Apeaker Ali Abdel-Aal that the authorities have met 90 per cent of the improvement required to resume Russian flights to Egypt.
Matviyenko, who headed a delegation that arrived in Egypt on Friday for a two-day official visit, said Russian and Egyptian aviation authorities had done “colossal work” implementing new security measures.
“I can say that this plan is more than 90 per cent complete. Only four items remain before the plan is fully completed,” said Matviyenko who met with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal on Saturday.
Last month Moscow signed a safety protocol with Egypt to monitor the implementation of airport safety measures as part of a series of steps to pave the way for the resumption of flights.
Russian security experts have visited Egypt more than five times since the 2015 crash to assess the effectiveness of new security measures put in place at Egypt’s airports. The latest visit, in February, involved a 10-member delegation from Russia’s Ministry of Transport.
Major General Samir Farag, former head of the army’s Department of Morale, told Sada Al-Balad satellite channel that the resumption of Russian flights would be high on the agenda of the Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s scheduled visit to Egypt.
According to Central Bank Governor Tarek Amer, revenues from tourism dropped from $6.1 billion in 2015 to $3.4 billion in 2016.