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Americans play the ‘waiting game’ after last passenger plane from Moscow canceled

A teacher whose father is suffering from cancer is one of scores of American citizens trapped in Russia after the last passenger flight to the U.S. was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Grace Mitchell, 26, told NBC News that she had had no plans to leave her home in Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia until she got a phone call from her mother saying her father’s cancer had taken a turn for the worse.

“All we could do, really, was try to get the last flight out of Russia, because if I don’t get a flight soon, then I probably won’t see my dad ever again,” Mitchell said.

So on Friday, along with hundreds of other passengers, Mitchell, an English teacher from Washington state,boarded Aeroflot Flight 102 at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, thinking it was her last chance to get home.

It was one of the few flights available out of Russia, as many had been canceled when the country’s government restricted international travel to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow had also warned that the flight, which was scheduled to go from Moscow to New York on Friday, could be the last one for the month.

Intensive care nurse Elena Salomatina, 40, was also hoping to fly home so she could help her colleagues at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., treat the influx of patients infected with COVID-19.

She said two flights had already canceled by the time she boarded Flight 102, which was then canceled before takeoff.

“I feel so guilty just sitting here,” she said.

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Aeroflot said later in a statement that the flight was canceled “following a decision by Russian aviation authorities to suspend all permits previously granted to carriers for charter flights to repatriate Russian and CIS citizens.”

“CIS” stands for Commonwealth of Independent States, the regional union of Russia and 11 former Soviet republics.

NBC News has asked the Russian government for comment.

The U.S. Embassy later sent an alert saying it was organizing a charter flight from Moscow this week with the permission of the Russian government.


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