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YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, December 16. /TASS/. Visa-free exchanges between the residents of Russia’s Sakhalin region and Japan’s island of Hokkaido may step up tourist inflow to both countries, Sakhalin region governor Oleg Kozhemyako said.
"If visa-free exchange program is introduced, then in the near future the tourist inflow to both countries may increase, ties between businessmen in Sakhalin and Hokkaido will become stronger, business activities on the Kuril Islands will intensify. Without a doubt, this will be beneficial for both Russia and Japan," Kozhemyako said.
According to the governor, the Sakhalin authorities have been considering ways to improve transport links between the two regions together with the Hokkaido authorities. The Russian regional government is ready to assess any proposals made by Russian and foreign businesses on arranging a sea transport link between Sakhalin’s port of Korsakov and the port nearest to Hokkaido’s capital of Sapporo.
"I think, both regions’ residents would be interested. The more transport link opportunities we have the easier it will be to implement our plans," Kozhenyako added.
At Friday’s press conference following his talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Russian President Vladimir Putin suggested that a visa-free travel regime should be introduced for the residents of the Sakhalin region and the island of Hokkaido. According to the Russian leader, the parties have also discussed the possibility of providing the former Japanese residents of the South Kuril Islands with an opportunity to visit the graves of their relatives without obtaining visas. "We agreed to do everything possible to grant them access even to the areas they were not allowed to visit before," Putin said.
He added that during the private meeting, Abe had handed over the former residents’ letters saying they were eager to communicate with Russians living on the islands now.