By Ahmed Abbas
The Egyptian Civil Aviation Ministry said the reasons behind the Russian plane crash cannot be established until now. In a Saturday press conference, Ayman El-Moqadem, head of the investigative committee said initial results show that the plane fragmented in air, and therefore plane wreckage extended over 13 km after crashing.
He said the committee finished listening to recording found on the plane’s black box, which was collected on the day of the crash, and is currently in the process of transcribing the records, adding that “an unusual sound was heard in the last second, which needs further spectral analysis”.
He said 23 minutes were recorded, marking the duration of the flight before it crashed and that the plane was 30,888 feet above ground and was still ascending.
Meanwhile, Russia said there is no evidence that the Metrojet A321 plane in Sinai was downed by a bomb on board, as reported by the Russian official news agency TASS on Saturday.
“Russian specialists will request the French investigators and the Egyptian commission to provide confirmation of the onboard explosion identification,” a source inside the Russian mission at the special investigation commission was quoted as saying by TASS.
He also confirmed that the only evidence is “certain noises recorded by the cockpit voice recorder”. He stressed that it is too early “to say that they indicate an explosion” as the nature of that noise is still being assessed.
Russian President Vlamdir Putin had agreed to suspend all the Russian flights to Egypt based on advice from the Russian federal security service.
In a phone call between President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and his Russian counterpart, both sides agreed to increase their collaboration in aviation security to ensure to the safety of Russian tourists, according to a statement released by the Egyptian presidency.
Egypt and Russia also agreed to re- establish Russian flights “as soon as possible”.
The UK also halted all of its flights to Sharm El-Sheikh on concerns that the Russian flight was brought down by a bomb. The UK government may have based their decisions on exchanges between Jihadi groups about the bomb scenario, Reuters reported.
Former Egyptian aviation minister Wael El-Ma’adawy criticised the British move. “If the UK government has any information about the accident, why doesn’t it give this information to the investigators?” El Maadawy told Daily News Egypt.
He stressed that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) law obliges countries that have any intelligence information to report to the joint investigation committee. “They have to respect the security collaboration with Egypt,” he added.
Meanwhile, in a press conference with his Hungarian counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry said: “We expected the information available on the technical level to be made available to us instead of released to the media.” He said this raises questions.
Egyptian security advisor Sayed Ghoniem believes the decision may be a precautionary measure. “If they really heard the claimed talks between militants, it will be very normal to take such a decision,” Ghoniem told Daily News Egypt.
Regarding the Russian decision to suspend all flights to Egypt, Ghoniem suggested two probabilities. “What most likely happened is that some Western intelligence agencies supplied Moscow with information that confirmed the explosion theory,” he said. “The weaker probability is that Russia is responding to the Egyptian Gas deal with Greece and Cyprus”.
Ghoniem believes the Russian president did not have any other choice. “This was security advice from Russian federal security, so he cannot but agree; otherwise he may bear the consequences of not listening to his security advisors.”
In addition to Russian and British flights, the German carrier Lufthansa also suspended its flights to Sharm El-Sheikh earlier this week.
Italy’s Alitalia said it has suspended freight and mail transports by aircraft as part of new security measures at Cairo Airport. According to the Rome-based airline, it will not accept luggage travelling without an owner as part of strengthened security at the Egyptian airport. The Slovenian airline also suspended flights to and from Sharm El-Sheikh.