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Russian border guard proposes lifting visas for foreigners

Russian Border CrossingMOSCOW, March 1 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Federal Security Service's border guard department proposed on Tuesday introducing a visa free travel regime for foreign citizens amid falling numbers of visiting tourists from the European Union.

"As statistics of the past three of four years show, there is a significant decrease in the number of EU residents entering Russia," the department's deputy head, Vyacheslav Dorokhin, told journalists in Moscow.

"It is difficult to explain why this is happening, but I believe that scrapping visas will help increase the number of those wishing to visit our country," he said.

Bureaucracy that accompanies the visa application process in Russia has long been an issue of discontent for foreigners trying to visit the country.

Visa restrictions cannot be considered a panacea from the terrorist threat as visa procedures do not allow the authorities to learn the real motivations of a person entering a country, Dorokhin said.

"We do not see the lifting of visas as a threat to Russia's security," he said.

Russia has visa-free travel agreements with almost all former Soviet republics and with more than 20 other countries.

The Russian authorities have long been trying to persuade Europe to drop visas for Russian citizens, but their attempts have so far yielded no significant results.

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