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EgyptAir barred from flying to Russia

[MOSCOW] Russia has banned EgyptAir from flying to the country, one of Moscow's airports and the company said on Friday, with Russian flights between the two already suspended following the Sinai plane crash.

Moscow's Domodedovo airport told AFP it had received a telegram from the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia) banning EgyptAir flights to Russian territory from Saturday.

But Rosaviatsia declined to comment on the claim.

Egyptian Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal said authorities had received notice from Domodedovo and had cancelled a flight for Saturday, and "reserved seats on other airplanes for passengers from Cairo and those coming from Moscow".

He added that the Egyptian aviation authority was "in contact with its Russian counterpart to try to learn the reasons for such a decision, which has still not been officially announced".

But EgyptAir chairman Fathi Sharif said the company had received instructions from the Russian authorities to halt flights, calling that "unjustifiable".

He told AFP the ban, from Saturday, would continue pending a review by the Russians of an EgyptAir operational manual for which they had demanded a translation into Russian.

"We are surprised by this announcement and express our opposition," he said, demanding a "quick reconsideration of the Russian decision, which is damaging the image of our company and the interests of passengers."

He said EgyptAir had served Moscow for several years "without problems or complaints on the part of the Russians, and we do not see any justification for this announcement".

The news comes a week after Moscow halted Russian flights to and from Egypt as fears mounted that the Metrojet Airbus crash in the Sinai Peninsula may have been caused by a bomb.

The plane, operated by Russian firm Kogalymavia, came down shortly after takeoff from the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on October 31, killing all 224 people on board in Russia's worst air disaster.

The Egyptian-led probe into the disaster is still ongoing, but Britain and the United States have said a bomb could have downed the plane after an Islamic State-linked group claimed responsiblity.

Russia says its flights are halted until adequate safety measures have been put in place at Egyptian airports. It has been flying out thousands of holidaymakers stranded in the country, although without any check-in luggage.

A senior Kremlin official has said the flight ban to Egypt could last for months, and Russia's flagship carrier Aeroflot said it was not scheduling any flights to Egypt before March 27.