Middle EastRussia restricts flights to Turkey as political tensions rise

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Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova attends a session of a coordination council to confront the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Moscow, Russia March 14, 2020. Sputnik/Alexander Astafyev/Pool via REUTERS

Russia will restrict flights to and from Turkey from April 15 to June 1 due to a rise in COVID-19 cases in Turkey, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said on Monday, amid growing political tensions between the two countries.

The decision to drastically cut the number of flights to Turkey, which is heavily reliant on revenue from tourism, was announced two days after Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Istanbul.

Golikova, speaking on the Russia-24 TV Channel, did not mention politics in the decision to restrict flights to Turkey, a popular destination for millions of Russian tourists.

She said the number of COVID-19 cases in Turkey had been rising.

A senior government official said earlier on Monday that Turkey's daily coronavirus infection numbers had soared above 50,000, and Erdogan was likely to order a tightening of restrictions this week ahead of the start of the tourism season. read more

Asked about Russia's move, Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca told a news conference that a Russian delegation would visit Turkey's tourist destinations soon to observe coronavirus control measures.

In the latest sign of worsening relations between Russia and Turkey, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Turkey and other "responsible" nations should not feed what he described as "belligerent sentiment" in Ukraine. read more

His remarks followed a news conference on Saturday in which Erdogan, alongside Zelenskiy, expressed his readiness to support a peaceful resolution tothe conflict in breakaway pro-Moscow eastern regions in Ukraine, where tensions recently flared. read more

Golikova said some flights, including two per week to Istanbul, would continue.

Russia will also suspend flights to Tanzania from April 15 to June 1, she added.

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