Putin Calls For Visa-Free Travel for Athletes

KAZAN, March 19 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin called Tuesday for visa-free travel for foreign athletes competing in major sports events scheduled to take place between now and 2018, which include next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 soccer World Cup.

“Before 2018 about 20 of the biggest international competitions and world championships are to take place in Russia. It would be right if we introduce visa-free entry for all the athletes taking part,” said Putin, who was visiting the Volga region city of Kazan, host of July’s international university games, officially called the Summer Universiade.

In March 2012, Putin signed a decree allowing visa-free travel to and from Russia for participants of the university games, a biannual festival scheduled this year for June 25 to July 25.

Earlier in the day, Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said the Russian government was in the “final stage” of considering a bill allowing 10-day visa-free stays in Russia for athletes and sports officials, as well as cultural and business figures, from “non-dangerous countries.”

“It [the bill] gives the opportunity for visa-free entry to Russia for so-called non-dangerous countries for a period of up to 10 days for holding major events – sporting, cultural, business – all championships, matches, Christmas festivals, Easter festivals and so forth,” said Medinsky, speaking at a government meeting on developing tourism in Russia. The meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, was held just outside of Moscow.

It was not immediately clear which countries could be deemed “non-dangerous” or when the bill would be considered by parliament if approved by the Cabinet.

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