Russian families mark Sinai plane crash anniversary
SHARM EL SHEIKH // Relatives of some of the 224 people killed in the bombing of a Russian airliner over Egypt attended ceremonies on Monday in Saint Petersburg to mark a year since the disaster, while a church service was held in Sharm El Sheikh to mark the occasion.
The Egyptian affiliate of ISIL claimed it brought down the plane carrying holidaymakers from a Red Sea resort on October 31, 2015, saying it had smuggled explosives into the aircraft before its departure from Sharm El Sheikh.
All 224 people on board were killed when the bomb went off minutes after the Metrojet A-321 had taken off for the Russian city of Saint Petersburg.
In Russia, mourners lit candles at a memorial service at the northwestern city’s Holy Trinity Izmailovsky Cathedral and held a minute of silence at 7.14am (8.14am UAE time), the exact time when the plane disappeared from the radar.
The central Saint Isaac’s Cathedral also tolled its bells 224 times, while a memorial concert was to be held in the city later in the day.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill led prayers for the victims on Monday morning in Moscow.
In a cathedral at Sharm El Sheikh, priests read out prayers at the service on Monday attended by Egyptian officials and Russia’s ambassador.
The attack led to Russia halting all flights to Egypt, one of the most popular holiday destinations for its nationals. British holidaymakers also stopped visiting Sharm El Sheikh. Citizens of Russia and Britain make up about 40 per cent of foreign tourists to Egypt.
Russia has still not renewed flights to Egypt despite some official discussion. Pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia reported last week that this would not happen earlier than spring 2017, citing industry experts.
The ban on flights had severely impacted Egypt’s struggling economy, denting its tourist revenues at a time it faces a shortage of dollars.
In February, prime minister Ismail Sharif said the North African country had already lost up to US$1.3 billion (Dh4.77bn) since the disaster.
Egypt is still battling ISIL’s Egypt branch in the Sinai Peninsula.
Last November, Russian president Vladimir Putin said Russian investigators had found evidence of a bomb on board, and vowed to punish those responsible.
The country’s investigative committee, which probes major crimes, on Monday announced that it was “taking every possible measure to identify and bring to justice those who are implicated to various degrees in the deaths of those on-board”.
On Sunday, in the town of Vsevolozhsk outside Saint Petersburg, relatives and the regional governor Alexander Drozdenko laid the foundation stone for a Garden of Memory which will include the names of all those killed and 224 specially planted trees.
* Agence France-Presse
Updated: October 31, 2016 04:00 AM