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Implications of Russian plane crash reach far

Egyptians say flight suspensions are unjustified

As investigations into the cause of the suspicious crash of a Russian jet in Egypt last weekend continue, the tragedy is already having a profound impact on the country's tourism industry as well as diplomatic relations.

Britain is also becoming increasingly embroiled in a diplomatic crisis with Russia, which criticized the country's decision to suspend flights to the Sharm el-Sheikh holiday resort and accused it of not sharing intelligence on the crash.

However, on Friday, President Vladimir Putin changed his tune and suspended all Russian flights to Egypt following advice from Russian security services.

Relations with Egypt are also frosty; U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron's decision to halt flights, leaving thousands of tourists stranded, has angered the country.

We take a closer look at the fallout from the disaster.

Egypt’s tourism industry hit

Egypt has long been a popular holiday destination, in particular for Brits. Egypt was a British colony until the 1950s and diplomatic ties have traditionally been good of late, borne out in the strong British visitor numbers to Egypt and foreign investment in the country.

But the tourism industry is looking increasingly beleaguered as concerns over security and safety mount following the crash.

The economic and political upheavals brought about by the country's popular uprising sparked by the Arab Spring in 2011 already dented its popularity as a holiday destination.

Bomb by Islamic State likely caused Russian plane crash: security sources

Over 900,000 of U.K. tourists holiday in Sharm el-Sheikh each year. The U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth office warns travellers on its website that there is a "high threat" of terrorism in the country, although the Red Sea Resort is usually trouble free, it says. It is however advising against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el Sheikh following the crash.

Airlines from other European countries such as Germany and the Netherlands also temporarily halted flights to Sharm el-Sheikh, further damaging the resort's reputation.

Tourism accounts for 5.6 percent of Egypt's gross domestic product, according to figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council . The industry also supported 11.5 percent of total employment in the country with around 2.8 million jobs reliant directly and indirectly on tourism.

Putin to step up IS fight?

An Egyptian affiliate of the "Islamic State" terrorist group, which controls swathes of Iraq and Syria, has already said it carried out the atrocity, although this was dismissed by the Egyptian authorities

The crash could prompt Russia to alter its strategy in its intervention in the Syrian conflict to target Islamic State forces more directly.

Alexander Kliment, director of Eurasia & Emerging Market Strategy at Eurasia Group, said that "perceptions of a terrorist connection will have minimal effect on Russia's involvement in Syria."

"But a second, thornier question is whether evidence of ISIS involvement specifically would push Putin to reorient Russia's involvement to concentrate more directly on weakening the Islamic State," he said.

"Until now, Russian forces have shied away from direct confrontation with ISIS… (But) if ISIS manages to carry out more attacks on Russians or Russian interests, Putin could be pushed into a more confrontational, and risky, stance towards the Islamic State."

Domestic repercussions for Russia

While Russian President Vladimir Putin's popularity rating appears to be made of Teflon, with nothing sticking to his reputation despite his government's international isolation as a result of sanctions, some analyst believe that the Russia plane crash could have repercussions back home.

Otilia Dhand, vice president of risk consultancy Teneo Intelligence, said it could be worse for Russia if the plane had come down to a mechanical fault, rather than a terrorist attack.

"While we do not know what the exact causes of the crash were, it is pointless to speculate on the policy implications could be -- It might well turn out that it was a mechanical failure and that could have policy implications inside Russia that are maybe more serious than if it was a bomb. We've just seen the collapse of the government in Romania over corruption allegations," she said.

Egyptian officials inspect the crash site of Russian Airliner in Suez, Egypt on November 01, 2015. A Russian Airbus-321 airliner with 224 people aboard crashed in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula on yesterday.
Alaa El Kassas | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

That said, Russians remain overwhelmingly in support of Putin following the the annexation of Crimea and role in the pro-Russian uprising in east Ukraine.

More involvement (and possible ground troops) abroad in Syria, however, could have ramifications for a nation that still bears the scars from a disastrous invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and the ten-year war that followed in which almost 15,000 Russian soldiers died and thousands more were wounded. Put

Diplomacy in the doldrums

A diplomatic row has broken out between the U.K. and Egypt over suspension of flights, while the U.K.'s relations with Russia have also cooled significantly.

The Russian foreign ministry said it was shocked the U.K. had not shared intelligence it had unearthed with respect to the crash. Meanwhile a visit to London by Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Thursday, Egypt's authoritarian president, could not have come at a worse time.