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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Russiaís Air Links are Expanding
Text David Schauff

Two new air links launching this spring will expand Moscowís routes and help business and tourism grow. On March 20th the first direct non-stop flights from Moscow to Houston will connect oil- and gas-rich Russia with the oil capital of the United States for the first time. The route, which will be flown four times a week by burgeoning Singapore Airlines, also means the first direct flights on the Singapore-Moscow leg. The route will be operated with a Boeing 777-300 aircraft on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. On the other three days (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) Singapore Airlines will continue its Moscow-Singapore flights with a refueling stop in Dubai.

On April 27th S7 Airlines will inaugurate the first direct Moscow - Dublin flights heralding a new era in cooperation between the two countries. The flights are scheduled for three times a week on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays using an Airbus A319 aircraft, which means that Russian tourists will no longer have to transit a third country on their way to Ireland which necessitated another visa with its incumbent costs and time-consuming processes. Even a simple change of planes at Londonís Heathrow Airport requires a British transit visa. The incoming international flight from Moscow lands at a different terminal from the one used for the outbound flight to Dublin, so passengers have had to process passport control.

Both airlines are using Moscowís most advanced air terminal at Domodedovo as their local hub.

The launch of the Moscow-Dublin flight precedes a Russian business forum in Dublin which is expected to take place in the second half of May and will be attended by Dmitry Kozak, Russiaís Minister for Regional Development. The forum will build on the success of the one held in 2006 which had as its theme: ďRussia - a Vital Part of Irelandís Future.Ē

The 2006 forum also sought to dispel the myths about modern Russia, presenting the country in the light of the realities of doing business on the ground, rather than the perception of business in Russia often held by many Irish companies. The session drew on specific examples in the Russian investment market and highlighted that in comparative terms, Russia is a normal and active business environment.

With Guinness now being brewed under license in St Petersburg and Jamesonís whisky available in bars and supermarkets throughout Moscow, Russians are already bonding with Irelandís traditions. Moscowís group of Irish pubs, the strong Russian affinity to Celtic music and culture, and the unique privilege afforded by the Moscow City government which every year for nearly 20 years has allowed the closure of Novy Arbat street to permit one of the largest St. Patrickís Day parades outside Dublin and New York City, all point to Irelandís special relationship with Russia.

In many respects, Ireland has traditionally punched above its weight in the relationship with Russia which has its roots in the non-aligned movement. In recent years, Irelandís economic successes, and a growing self confidence and attractiveness for investors, have mirrored Russiaís development in the Putin Era.

And now with three flights a week in both directions between Moscow and Dublin, hopes are high for the development of tourism. One popular Russian TV travel program is already exploring the possibility of making a series of 15-minute segments on Ireland and its food and culture. Dublinís hotels would be well advised to dust off their Russian phrase books or hire Russian-speaking staff to deal with what could be a summer influx of Russian tourists.

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