CALANGUTE: Russian Information Centre head in Goa Ekaterina Belyakova on Sunday stated that Russia has not removed India or Goa from the list of safe destinations, but the authorities ‘did not discuss Goa or India in the safe destination list’.

In a press release, she said “In our previous statement, we have noted that Russian authorities did not discuss including Goa or India in the list of ‘safe’ destinations recommended by Russian government to Russian tourists. We say (sic) that Russian government only discussed the list of countries recommended for visits (holidays).”

Belyakova said that certain parts of her statement regarding Russian charter tourist arrivals in Goa issued on Saturday have been misrepresented. “Our statement did not have any information regarding removal of India from the list of ‘safe’ countries’ or including India in the list of ‘unsafe countries’ as was mentioned in several reports in Indian media. TOI had reported as in the original statement that “Unfortunately, both India and Goa, is not discussed as a promising direction for Russian travelers.”

She added that her earlier statement said “According to the news agency INTERFAX, November 26, 2015, first deputy speaker of the Parliament of the Russian Federation, Ivan Melnikov, offered to convene a ’roundtable’ to make proposals to improve the availability of new, safe tourist destinations for Russians – such as Cuba, south Vietnam and southern China”. This is the quote from Interfax, and India is not discussed here.

Belyakova said “The main focus of our statement was to show the prospects for Goa that will open if Goa becomes an alternative destination instead if Egypt and Turkey.” Certain incidents in the last couple of years including fights with rude taxi drivers and increasing price levels have made it difficult for Russians to make Goa a holiday destination of choice.

With Turkey and Egypt being off the radar for Russians, she said if India can become a friendly country and capitalize on the opportunity, at least some part of 7 million tourists can think of travelling to Goa. “Whether Goa is ready to host so many Russians and will India really become one of the “friendly countries” that was mentioned by the vice-speaker of the Russian parliament? Would taxi drivers not overprice and not be rude, seeing a white man, and the owners of houses and hotels give discounts to Russians who come always for more than 10 days of holidays,” she asked.