Lavrov warns citizens off travel to Turkey as cancels visit

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday recommended against Russians travelling to Turkey and cancelled his own planned visit after Ankara shot down a Russian fighter jet.

AFP| Last Updated: Nov 24, 2015, 22:51 PM IST

Moscow: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday recommended against Russians travelling to Turkey and cancelled his own planned visit after Ankara shot down a Russian fighter jet.

"The critical mass of terrorist incidents on Turkish soil, according to our estimates, is no less of a threat than in Egypt," Lavrov said in televised comments.

"For this reason of course we do not recommend that our citizens travel to Turkey for tourism or any other reason," Lavrov said, speaking from Sochi.

There are currently around 10,000 Russian tourists in Turkey according to the Russian Tour Industry Union, Interfax news agency reported.

Lavrov said he had cancelled a visit to Istanbul to meet his Turkish counterpart Feridun Sinirlioglu planned for tomorrow.

"A decision has been taken to cancel the meeting that was planned for tomorrow in Istanbul between the foreign ministers of Russia and Turkey," Lavrov said.

Moscow has lashed out angrily at Ankara after Turkey shot down a Russian jet in Syria, with the Kremlin insisting the jet did not enter Turkish airspace.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned earlier that "today's tragic event will have serious consequences for Russian-Turkish relations."

Along with Egypt, Turkey is the top holiday destination for Russians, with more than 3 million visiting in 2014, making them the second biggest group of visitors after the Germans.

Now though "it's not the season, and we hope that there aren't many people there," the head of Russia's national tourism agency, Oleg Safonov, told Interfax news agency.

Russian tour operator Natali Tours, one of the country's largest, has already announced that it has suspended sales of package holidays to Turkey.

"We assessed the situation and realised that it could develop according to the most negative scenario. It's better to halt sales of tours until the situation clears up," its president Vladimir Vorobyov told TASS state news agency.

The shooting down of the plane and Putin's statements on a freeze in relations between Turkey and Russia prompted Russian stock markets to fall this afternoon, with the RTS dollar-denominated index falling 3.44 per cent and the ruble- denominated Micex index falling 3.2 per cent. The ruble also fell slightly in value.