Putin: Russia will keep moving towards lifting restrictions for tourists

Russia mulls electronic visas and short-term visa-free entry for foreign tourists

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According to Russian President Vladimir Putin, short-term visa-free entry for foreigners and electronic visas is the way to go for Russia if it wants to become a tourist haven. But Putin also said that it shouldn’t be done at the expense of ‘security’.

“We’re not going to achieve anything through bans in tourism or any other areas,” the Russia president said at the Business Russia forum in Moscow.

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Tourists, who arrive on cruise ships to Saint Petersburg, are able to stay in the city for three days without a visa and “this practice must be generalized and expanded” throughout Russia, he said, especially singling out the Far East.

“We must also switch to a wider use of electronic visas. It’s obvious.” The Russian government is already working on this, but there’s some resistance from security agencies and the Foreign Ministry that Putin said he has to overcome.

“It has to be acknowledged that their stance is often justified. We live in a complicated world. We must understand that the admiration of our foreign guests isn’t shared by the official bodies of the countries they come from.”

So, Russia will keep moving towards lifting restrictions for tourists, but it’ll be done “gradually and carefully,” the head of state promised.

The FIFA World Cup, which Russia hosted last year, had proven to be a success for the visa free entry experiment, as 3.4 million tourists were allowed in only using their Fan-IDs as entry papers. However, it wasn’t that easy to organize for the authorities, Putin said.

According to him a large number of foreigners came to Russia “under the guise of football fans” with the actual aim of getting to neighboring countries, including those in the EU.

“Out relevant agencies had to work hard in cooperation with colleagues from those countries in order to prevent the interlopers from making it there.”