The Prime Minister takes questions about the situation surrounding the temporary suspension of air service with Egypt.
Question: Mr Medvedev, my first question has to do with a burning issue: Egypt, our tourists, and getting them back to Russia. Can we assume that all necessary measures have already been taken? How long will this large and complex operation last?
Dmitry Medvedev: I believe that the decision taken on Friday is a fairly complex one, but is quite timely, precisely because the causes of the crash are still being investigated. The likelihood of a terrorist act still cannot be ruled out. That is why such a decision was made – in the form of a presidential executive order – based on a request and the materials that have been put together by the Anti-Terrorism Committee. It is also a technical challenge for us, because Egypt is a popular destination with about 80,000 Russian tourists vacationing there now. People like to go there, especially now, as it’s getting cold in Russia, but is still warm in Egypt. It’s a good time to be there. Our people need to be extracted from there in a properly organised manner.
How can this be achieved? We will go about it using aircraft, which, in fact, continue to fly there, but don’t take passengers aboard to go to Egypt. They are just taking the vacationers back home. People don’t want to cut short their vacations or their time off in Egypt. They may stay there for as long as they originally planned. However, their flight back home will be a special flight. There will be special aircraft, not regular flights or charter flights, but specifically evacuation aircraft that are controlled by the state and are serviced in a special way at the airports of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
The baggage will be delivered separately, because transporting it represents heightened risk. We are well aware that baggage control is not always thorough enough, so it was decided – perhaps, not a very pleasant decision – to transport luggage separately. I think that we will be able to bring the bulk of our vacationers back from Egypt within the next two weeks, because this is about as long as they planned to stay in Egypt. If need be, we will continue to send aircraft there to evacuate more people. On Friday, I established a special crisis management headquarters headed by Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich. They have daily meetings and discuss a variety of issues, ranging from the key issue of getting our people home in a quick and organised manner, to technical issues, such as flying their baggage back to Russia and numerous other related issues. They are also discussing the economic fallout, because we are fully aware of the fact that Egypt as a tourist destination accounts for a substantial portion of the Russian tourism sector. A large number of tourist contracts have been signed for vacations in Egypt. It’s a tough situation for the tourism industry.
Question: I have a question related to this. Will flights to Egypt be restricted in the future and how will this impact the development of the Russian tourist business in general? How will this affect those who want to visit Egypt in the future, for instance, during the New Year holiday?
Dmitry Medvedev: Let’s divide this into a few different parts.
As for the tourist business, I’ve already started replying to this question. Of course, this is a challenge for it. This is unpleasant news for the tourist business because companies are unable to fulfil their contractual obligations.
In effect from the legal point of view this is force majeure: an act of state that prevents a company from fulfilling its commitments. In this case a tourist company should reimburse its clients in line with the established procedures. But the tourist company in question also acquires certain rights and possibilities. The headquarters should deal with all these issues, and oversee measures to support the tourist industry in general. There have been precedents when we had to support the tourist industry from a special fund. I don’t rule out the possibility that we will have to do the same now.
As for the future, New Year or other holidays, I’m not ready to speak about this for the time being. At today’s meeting with my deputies I said that we should not indulge in illusions. Security issues cannot be resolved quickly. They are likely to take much time. Their resolution will determine tourist flows.
The full text of the interview will be published by Rossiyskaya Gazeta on 11 November 2015.