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Ukrainian official comments on situation around introduction of travel visas for Russians

March 21, 2014, 0:09 UTC+3 VIENNA
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VIENNA, March 20, 23:25 /ITAR-TASS/. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry continues probing into the task to introduce travel visas in communications with Russia, Acting Foreign Minister Andrei Deshchitsa said Thursday as he answered a question by Itar-Tass.

“There’s a decision of the National Security and Defense Council (to introduce the travel visas), and the Foreign Ministry as a government agency is working to implement it,” he said.

“The first thing we could do is to make the presentation of foreign travel passports at the border-crossing points mandatory,” Deshchitsa said, adding that Russia came up with a proposal to make the presentation of these passports obligatory several years ago.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevgeny Perebiynos said earlier on Thursday that the ministry staff was probing into various options of the introduction of travel visas.

“The decision of the National Security and Defense Council to introduce travel visas for the Russian citizens hasn’t taken legal effect yet and it hasn’t been signed by Acting President (Alexander Turchinov - Itar-Tass) but the Foreign Ministry is considering various options for effectuating the measure and it will soon submit its proposals to government members for consideration,” Perebiynos said.

He indicated that no changes had taken place in the regulations for crossing the border by the time he addressed the reporters.

Travel visas for the Russians going to Ukraine and the Ukrainians heading for Russia have never been required since the emergence of independent Ukrainian state in 1991.

Russian Foreign Ministry said earlier Moscow was astonished by the National Security and Defense Council’s demand to introduce travel visas for Russian citizens and found it to be highly regrettable.

“We have not received an official notification from the Ukrainian side,” it said in a statement. “As far as we can see, the case in hand is the willingness of the Ukrainian side to terminate legal effect of the Russian-Ukrainian intergovernmental agreement on visa-free trips of the two countries’ citizens that was signed on January 16, 1997, and the Protocol on Changes in the aforesaid agreement signed October 30, 2004.”

“The plans of the Ukrainian side cannot but cause astonishment and regret, since measures of this kind on part of Kiev will impede heavily the contacts between millions of the two countries’ citizens and will complicate cross-border, inter-regional and humanitarian ties,” the ministry said.

March 19, Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council took a decision to introduce travel visas in communications with Russia. “Foreign Ministry has been issued an instruction to introduce travel visas for the Russian Federation,” Council Secretary Andrey Parubiy said commenting on the results of the session.

In the meantime, interim acting prime minister Arseny Yatsenyuk warned there should be no haste in either the introduction of visas for the Russian citizens or in making the foreign travel passports mandatory for presentation at the border crossings. “It’s the case where you should measure thrice and cut once”.

Gennady Moskal, an MP representing Yatsenyuk’s Batkivshchina party warned that the introduction of travel visas would not produce anything but more protestgs and meetings in the east and south of the country.

“We’ve been a bit too hasty about the visas, so let’s calm down a little now,” he said.

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