Within days of the explosion of a Russian passenger plane over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on October 31, 2015, and with the official inquiry into the event still open, President
Vladimir Putin imposed an indefinite ban on all air travel between Egypt and Russia. Not even a month later, when the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian fighter jet, the Kremlin issued another open-ended ban, this time on all charter flights to Turkey.
Russian officials presented these sanctions as a necessary step against terrorism, and as a geopolitical display of control and power. But when viewed in the context of other restrictions on foreign travel for Russian citizens, and of the Kremlin’s ramped-up promotion of domestic tourism, they tell an altogether different story.
The main goal of these measures appears two-fold. First, they are designed to limit the exposure of the Russian population to the outside world at a time when the Kremlin is at pains to maintain the facade of resilience and victory-against-adversity it has crafted through its media. Second, they aim to redirect a significant portion of the nearly $54 billion Russian tourism cash flow back into the country to help prop up its struggling economy.