Travel: Departures: Russian roulette

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The Independent Travel
WHEN Russian airline pilots threaten strike action in protest against poor safety standards in the former Soviet Union, as they did this week, even the most devil-may-care traveller to the old USSR should take evasive action.

The single most effective way to increase life-expectancy is to avoid domestic flights. When the Soviet Union broke up, the massive bureaucracy, Aeroflot, splintered into 150 new carriers. Many of them have become accidents waiting to happen, with dreadful aircraft, poor maintenance and overcrowding. However, connections in western Europe can provide good links with former Soviet territory. Austrian Airlines serves Kiev and Odessa via Vienna, while Lufthansa goes via Frankfurt to Novosibirsk, deep inside Siberia.

Most implausible of all the new services into the old USSR is the twice- weekly flight between Belfast and the Latvian capital, Riga. Regent Holidays (0272 211711) can sell you a return ticket on this American TransAir service for pounds 229.

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