Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed with the head of his security services that flights by Russian aircraft to Egypt should be suspended as investigators try to determine the cause of last weekend's downing of Metrojet Flight 9268, which killed all 224 passengers on board, Russian media reported. Aleksandr Bortnikov, the head of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, said Friday there was a need for “absolute objectivity” in determining the cause of the crash.
"As long as we haven’t established the causes of the incident, I consider it appropriate to suspend the flights of Russian aircraft to Egypt," said Bortnikov. "This primarily applies to the tourist flow."
U.S. and U.K. officials said a terrorist attack could have brought down the Metrojet plane while Russian and Egyptian authorities have shied away from this explanation.
The Russian president’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that the flight suspension would be in place until the cause of the crash was determined.
“The head of state agreed with these recommendations,” Peskov said, according to Russian news agency TASS. “Putin has instructed the government to look into the mechanisms of implementing these IAC [Interstate Aviation Committee] recommendations and ensure the return home of Russian citizens.”
Investigators were continuing to study the cause of the crash Friday, and Russian officials said their experts had taken fragments of the plane and soil samples as part of their own investigation to determine whether or not explosives were used. Militants in Sinai linked with the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the downing of the aircraft.
Putin's decision comes a day after he expressed anger with British Prime Minister David Cameron over his decision to suspend flights. There are approximately 45,000 Russians in Egypt, the Guardian reported.
The U.K. suspended its flights to the resort area of Sharm el-Sheikh and was in the process of trying to bring its citizens home Friday. The Metrojet flight was flying from Egypt to St. Petersburg when it crashed Saturday.