Russia returns ‘11,000 tourists’ from Egypt
11,000 tourists were flown home from Egypt in the past 24 hours, and more will return on Sunday, Russia said. Moscow announced that it was suspending all flights to Egypt after a Russian plane crashed in Sinai - having initially urged caution towards claims a bomb may have brought down the jet. Dozens of special flights were put on for tourists wanting to go home. A remembrance service has been held in St Petersburg for the crash's 224 victims, most of whom were Russian. The main bell of the northern city's St Isaac's Cathedral tolled 224 times - once for each of the victims. Meanwhile, another Russian plane with the victims' remains - the fourth since the crash on 31 October - landed at St Petersburg's Pulkovo airport, as the identification process continues. The UK has flown 3,500 travellers out of Sharm el-Sheikh, from where Metrojet Flight 9268 took off for St Petersburg on 31 October. The UK halted flights to and from the resort on Wednesday, citing intelligence concerns that the Airbus may have been downed by a bomb. Russia criticised the UK decision - but then announced it was stopping all flights to Egypt. Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the temporary flight ban into law. Russians make up close to one in three of all foreign tourists in Egypt, most of them holidaymakers visiting resorts such as Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada. In 2014, about three million Russian nationals stayed at Egypt's resorts. Officials said there were about 80,000 Russian tourists in Egypt when Moscow took the decision to stop flights. Holidaymakers were flown back without hold luggage, mirroring the restrictions placed on British tourists being repatriated. The British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said the delays to flights for Britons stranded in the Red Sea resort were caused by the much higher level of security checking being imposed. “We are running up against the capacity limits of the airport given the additional measures that are being applied and that's what's causing the delay to some flights,” he said. At most, people will experience a delay of two or three days, he added. An Egyptian member of the international team investigating the crash has told Reuters that they are “90 per cent sure” that a sound heard in the last moments of the recording of the plane's cockpit voice recorder was an explosion caused by a bomb. On Saturday, the head of the investigating team, Ayman al-Muqaddam, said it was too early to say what caused the plane to break up in mid-air. Militants in the Sinai Peninsula affiliated to Islamic State have claimed that they brought down the airliner, but they have not said how.