Egypt's Ministry of Civil Aviation says it lost contact with a Russian aircraft carrying 217 passengers and 7 crew members over the restive Sinai peninsula, according to Egypt's state-run news agency.

A statement carried by the MENA agency says the flight took off from Sinai's Sharm el-Sheikh, a popular destination for Russian tourists, at 5:51 a.m. local time and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes after takeoff.

It says the plane was bound for St. Petersburg in Russia and a search and rescue team is looking for the plane. Earlier in the day, an Egyptian official with the government's Incidents Committee told local media that the plane had briefly lost contact and was now safely in Turkish airspace.