Moscow Drags Its Feet on New Russia-U.S. Visa Deal

Russia has been delaying the ratification of a new visa agreement with the United States despite calls from Washington to expedite the process, Kommersant business daily said on Thursday.

In November 2011, Moscow and Washington signed the agreement to ease visa requirements between the two countries. Under the new rules, business people and tourists will get 3-year multi-entry visas, while government officials of both states will be able to receive one-year multi-entry visas.

The U.S. authorities do not have to take additional steps to put the agreement in effect while in Russia the document has to be ratified by the parliament.

Some Western political experts and diplomats have already suggested that the Russian parliament is delaying the process intentionally to use the visa issue as leverage in dealing with other problems in bilateral relations.

However, Kommersant said that the agreement has not been submitted yet to the lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma, because it is still under review at the Russian Ministry of Justice.

“We do not have the document, so there is nothing to ratify,” the paper quoted deputy head of the State Duma’s International Affairs Committee Andrei Klimov as saying.

According to Russian officials, the existing legislation does not provide for three-year visas. Therefore, the Russian parliament has to pass a number of amendments in order to ratify the new agreement.

The Justice Ministry have been drafting these amendments since November, and reportedly sent a positive legal assessment of the visa deal to the Foreign Ministry only yesterday.

Klimov told Kommersant that the lawmakers would start to discuss the document immediately after its submission. He warned, though, that the ratification “would not be automatic.”

“Our actions should reflect the fact that the Eurasian Union will soon appear on the map, which means that we have to consider all factors that might affect its work,” Klimov said.


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