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Moscow Says Relief 'On The Way' For Stranded Air Passengers

  • RFE/RL

WATCH: Freezing rain and power outages forced the cancellation of hundreds of flights at Moscow's airports, leaving thousands of travelers stranded. (Reuters video)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has asked prosecutors to review operations at Moscow's airports after flight delays left thousands stranded.

Freezing weather and power outages have disrupted more than 200 flights over the last three days at the capital's Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo airports, causing frustrated passengers to stage protests in some airport terminals.

Some stranded passengers at Sheremetyevo resorted to violence, attacking employees of Russia's flagship airline.

Russian news agency RIA quoted one Aeroflot employee as saying airline staffers were now afraid to deal with passengers frustrated with flight delays and cancellations for a third straight day. The employee told the news agency there were not enough security guards at the airport.

The stalled air traffic is attributed to freezing rain, which led to downed power lines and dangerous sheets of ice.

Russian officials said that Domodedovo -- Moscow's largest airport, located south of the city -- was slowly resuming airport services and flights.

Aleksandr Neradko, head of the Russian Federal Air Transport Agency (Rosaviatsia), told reporters that electricity supplies to Domodedovo Airport had been restored, and that all airport services were running normally.

WATCH: Passengers at Domodedovo airport near Moscow were more subdued as they waited out the delays once flights were being resumed on December 28. Airport staff handed out free water to some stranded travelers. (RFE/RL's Russian Service video)



Neradko said Domodedovo would handle 350 flights on December 28, 250 of which were previously scheduled flights and 100 of which were from the December 26-27 backlog. "It's a very difficult task, but if all services run smoothly, this is a completely realistic [task]," he said.

Domodedovo Airport spokeswoman Elena Galanova told reporters that "by 11:35 local time 90 flights left the airport and 78 flights arrived at Domodedovo."

Situation 'Improving'

The news comes as a relief to stranded travelers. Passengers both in Domodedovo and Sheremetyevo have complained of a lack of clear information about their flights, food shortages, and insufficient medical aid available for sick passengers and those with small children.

Media reports have claimed that the price of food and drinks at airport shops and restaurants increased significantly during the crisis.

Galanova said staff at the airport had been working extended shifts to clear the backlog of passengers, and added that food and refreshments were being distributed.

"There are some 8,000 people inside the airport complex. The situation is calm," Galanova said.

"People are behaving calmly. And we hope the situation will be completely back to normal by tomorrow."

Mikhail Vasilenko, general director of Sheremetyevo International Airport, told Russian media that the situation in Sheremetyevo was becoming stabilized and that flights had been resumed.

...Or Still Chaotic?

However, on December 28, the scene at Sheremetyevo reportedly remained chaotic.

Passengers from several delayed flights block the passage for other passengers at Sheremetyevo Airport on December 27.
Russia-24 TV reported that passengers whose flights were canceled or delayed were given the option of ticket reimbursement, but that passengers were unable to get their money back because cashier offices lacked funds.

Passenger Pavel Selin, a correspondent for Russia's NTV, who was stranded at Sheremetyevo, described conditions today to RFE/RL's Russian Service.

"What is happening here can be called a total collapse and chaos," Selin said.

"People here not only are stuck for a couple of days, but they cannot get any information at all about their flights. There is not a single official representative of the airport or of Aeroflot. Everyone is gone."

Earlier, Moscow Transportation Prosecutor Yevgeny Pospelov was quoted by Interfax as saying that authorities had launched an investigation into complaints of irregular water supplies in airport bathrooms, power outages, and the lack of proper ventilation.

written by Farangis Najibullah, with media reports
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