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KIEV/MOSCOW, March 1. /TASS/. Starting from Sunday, Russian citizens will no more be allowed to enter Ukraine on national passports as has been the case since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Under the new rules, announced by Kiev on February 3, Russians who want to visit their relatives and friends or just come to the neighboring country will have to show their foreign passports when crossing the border.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the move comes as Ukraine needs to "significantly tighten border control and ensure the interests of Ukraine’s national security."
Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko also explained the measure by security concerns. "This is the full right of a sovereign state. The tightening of the regime comes mainly due to concerns about Ukraine’s security," he said.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry Yevgeny Perebeynos said it would be easier to control the Russians’ entry to Ukraine on foreign passports. "National passports do not allow a thorough control of the duration of stay in Ukraine, and foreign passports give such a possibility," he said.
If a person violates the regime of stay in Ukraine, he or she will be no more allowed into the country, he said.
Meanwhile, Kiev is not considering plans of introducing visas for Russians, Perebeynos added. But "never say never" he said, adding "yet there are no conditions that demand the introduction of the visa regime."
No Russian tit-for-tat measures
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that Moscow would preserve the existing order of crossing the state border for Ukrainians despite the recent decisions made in Kiev.
"Kiev’s decision can cause nothing but regret. The Ukrainian side’s actions will make it much harder for millions of people in both countries to contact with each and will seriously aggravate ties between relatives and border regions. On the contrary, we think it’s important to preserve the previous order of crossing the state border," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Yevgeny Ivanov, who heads the consular department of the Russian Foreign Ministry, explained that Ukrainian nationals can use both foreign and national passports when entering Russia, while children under 16 can show birth certificates.
Asked about possible response steps, Russia’s upper house speaker Valentina Matviyenko told TASS: "Russia should not take adequate measures in this regard because of humanitarian considerations."
"We cannot limit or ban entry to Russia’s territory for the citizens of Ukraine who are in trouble and who need our help and protection," she said.
Matviyenko said Kiev’s decision signals "the unwillingness to search for ways to build the mutually beneficial Russian-Ukrainian relations" and "the reluctance to allow free mass media to cover the real events in Ukraine."
New measures to affect people
The citizens in border areas will be the most affected by the new Kiev measures. For these people coming to Ukraine is often of vital necessity every day: some have grandchildren or elderly parents across the border, while others cross the border on the way to school, a shop or just when visiting friends.
As of early 2007, more than 20 million people lived in cross-border regions of the two countries: 12.1 million in the Ukrainian areas and 10.5 million in the Russian areas.
Since 2011, these people could enter the cross-border areas of the neighboring country through local checkpoints.
These rules applied to the citizens of the Belgorod, Bryansk, Voronezh, Kursk, Rostov regions, the Krasnodar Territory in Russia and for the Donetsk, Lugansk, Sumskaya, Kharkov and Chernigov regions in Ukraine.