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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Tourists Stuck In Holiday-Travel Fray

Scores of Russians who thought they would spend a relaxing New Year on sunny beaches in Bali and Thailand have instead found themselves stuck in a travel nightmare.

The tourists had to wait out 20- to 35-hour delays at Sheremetyevo Airport before their chartered flights on Rusavia finally left, but then they found themselves stranded in Asia.

It took intervention from two ministries to finally bring some of the travelers back home this week.

The imbroglio has led the two travel agencies that organized the tours, Vand International and Russian Holiday, to point the finger of blame at Rusavia. The airline says it is acting within the law.

The snafu began Dec. 29 when at least two Rusavia flight delays left several hundred tourists high and dry, said Oleg Petrov, deputy head of the Moscow Association of Travel Agencies.

Dozens of travelers hoping to vacation on a Vand International tour package in Thailand were stuck until the morning of Dec. 31 while Rusavia struggled to get permission from Kazakhstan and China to fly over their territories, Petrov said.

About 120 tourists with tickets purchased through Russian Holiday had to wait 36 hours at Sheremetyevo Airport to leave for Bali after the aircraft set aside for the flight broke down, according to the RATA news agency.

Two more flights were delayed but for shorter periods, Petrov said.

Once the tourists got to Thailand and Bali they found that they could not leave.

Rusavia, citing a cash shortage and a lack of aircraft, was forced to turn to the Russian government to get assistance in bringing the travelers home.

Deputy Transportation ministers Alexander Neradko and Pavel Rozhkov as well as a deputy minister of economic development and trade, Vladimir Strzhalkovsky, have put together a crisis task force to organize the return trips.

An aide to Neradko said by telephone that the task force has managed to bring the tourist group back from Thailand and is now working to retrieve the tourists on Bali.

Adding a twist to the matter, an RTR television crew sent to film stranded travelers was attacked by unknown assailants as they left the airport. The attackers beat the crew and seized recordings from their camera.

Moscow police said they are investigating whether the attack is linked to Rusavia, a charge the airline denies.

Officials at Vand International and Russian Holiday said in telephone interviews Wednesday that their Moscow-based companies have fully paid Rusavia for the two flights and denied any responsibility for the delays.

Petrov at the Moscow Association of Travel Agencies put the blame on Rusavia, saying that the stranded tourists are "naturally upset" and have good cause to sue the airline.

A lawyer for Rusavia, who identified herself only as Yulia, admitted that there have been delays of Rusavia flights, but insisted that Russian law allows for delays of charter flights.

She said only one passenger has sent a complaint to Rusavia, and it was unsigned.