© Photo: Reuters
© Photo: Reuters - Russia Grants 9 Arab Countries Visa-Free Entry
© Photo: Reuters

The Russian government released on Monday a list of 18 countries whose citizens have been granted the right to enter far-east Russia without an official entry visa; this list includes nine Arab countries but not Egypt.

The Arab countries granted this visa-free status are Algeria, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Morocco, the UAE, Oman, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, according to a statement released by the Russian government and reports by state-run news outlet Russia Today,

Other countries that will be able to enter Russia through a simplified electronic visa application are India, Iran, Brunei, China, North Korea, Mexico, Singapore, Turkey and Japan, according to the government statement.

Although Egypt-Russia relations have improved recently, past events seem to have left the Russian government wary of giving Egypt too much leeway.

Russia suspended direct flights to and from Egypt after a Russian plane was downed over the Sinai Peninsula shortly after taking off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport, killing all 224 passengers and crew on board.

Russian tourists accounted for a large part of Egypt’s regular income of foreign currency. The flight ban, which was also implemented by the UK, has hit Egypt’s also embattled tourism industry hard.

Egypt’s airports have seen extensive improvements in safety and security procedures and protocols, upon direction from Russia. Both sides have released several statements indicating that direct flights should be resumed soon after several examinations of airports by British and Russian delegations.

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the downing of the Russian plane. On its Dabaq media outlet, the terrorist organization explained that a soda can had been filled with explosives and placed on the flight.

Investigations by Russian intelligence corroborated this claim that a homemade bomb brought down the plane.

By Hakim Charles

Hakim Charles studied political science of the Middle East, European Studies, journalism and linguistics. He has been lecturing at different German universities since 2011 on issues related to ideology and the interplay of power thereof in socio-political life, and religion and its relationship to contemporary politics in the regions of West Asia and North Africa, especially Egypt and Syria. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Mashreq Politics & Culture Journal (MPC Journal) since 2014 and has published over 100 articles in different languages, academic and otherwise, in a wide spectrum of on-line and printed newspapers, journals and think tanks. His current research focuses on Islam-inspired political ideologies such as Islamist extremism and Salafism, radicalisation, de-radicalisation processes in Germany as well as peace and conflict in the Middle East.