Hundreds of Ukrainian tourists stranded in Zanzibar

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Dar es Salaam (AFP) – Tanzania has said it will deal with hundreds of Ukrainian tourists stranded in its Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar after Ukraine closed its airspace to civilian flights following the Russian invasion.

Nearly 1,000 Ukrainian tourists were staying in different hotels in the semi-autonomous region, Zanzibar Tourism Minister Lela Mohammed Mussa said on Monday.

“The first thing we did was to make sure they stayed where they are even though their time to leave had come,” Mussa said.

“We let them stay in hotels and be served like human beings.”

Famous for its turquoise waters, white sand beaches and spice plantations, Zanzibar relies heavily on tourism and before the Covid pandemic it received around half a million visitors a year.

Russia launched a full-scale Western-backed invasion of neighboring Ukraine last week, killing hundreds as airstrikes hit military installations and ground forces arrived from the north, south and east.

Ukraine responded by closing its airspace to civilian flights, citing a “high security risk”.

Tourists in Zanzibar will be catered for and “will receive all services, comforts and remain free”, Mussa said.

Plans are underway to evacuate tourists, some of whom are staying in a Russian-run hotel, to countries like Poland, the minister said.

“What is happening in Ukraine makes them extremely unhappy,” Yulia Baystrukova, who runs the Zanzi Resort, told AFP.