Russia set to unilaterally ease visa procedure for foreigners – Kremlin

Foreigners should be able to enter Russia without visas regardless of whether or not nations let Russians do the same, the Kremlin said

Russia set to unilaterally ease visa procedure for foreigners – Kremlin

Russia set to unilaterally ease visa procedure for foreigners – Kremlin

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the government to introduce visa-free entry regardless of reciprocity

The Russian government should develop a new entry system for foreigners that would allow them to travel to Russia without visas, even if their own nations still demand a visa from Russians, President Vladimir Putin has said.

The government, including the interior and foreign ministries as well the Federal Security Service (FSB) should “develop and present proposals on introducing a visa-free regime for foreigners traveling to Russia for tourist, business or educational purposes as well as those participating in sports or cultural events,” a presidential order issued on Sunday said.

All the measures should be introduced “regardless of the principle of reciprocity,” a document published by the Kremlin said. The decision was taken following a meeting of the Russian State Council’s executive committee. The State Council is an advisory body formed by the president to better coordinate the tasks of various government and public agencies.

The order also suggested increasing the validity period of multi-entry visas, as well as easing the regulations in the field of tourism, including the border checks of Russian tourist vessels. Earlier, the Russian city of St. Petersburg allowed organized groups of tourists traveling on cruise ships to enter and stay on its territory visa-free for a certain period of time. The president suggested expanding this practice to other Russian regions.

The government was also ordered to work on increasing the number of passenger and cargo flights by airlines from ‘friendly’ nations. The government proposals should be presented before June 1, 2023.

The development comes as the EU has tightened visa restrictions for Russians. In September, the bloc suspended its visa facilitation agreement with Moscow. Later that month, it introduced additional restrictions, banning Russians from applying for short-stay EU visas from third-party countries.

Those who want to stay in the EU for longer than 90 days should not be issued a visa at all, the bloc’s home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, said at the time. Some EU member states took a much harsher approach. In September, Finland closed its borders for Russians holding Schengen tourist visas. The Baltic States said they would not even issue humanitarian visas to Russian nationals.