"I think this is absolutely right. They should use foreign travel passports, not internal passports. Getting a foreign travel passport is not a problem now," the Russian foreign minister said. At the same time, deputy foreign minister of Russia Grigoriy Karasin declared that the issue is being discussed at the level of Foreign Ministries, but Moscow does not intend to introduce a visa regime with Ukraine.
As a reminder, currently the citizens of both countries can cross the border using only internal passports.
Moreover, Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that from 2015 citizens of all foreign countries, except for Customs Union members (Belarus and Kazakhstan), must enter Russia only with foreign travel passports.
ForUm has asked experts about the reasons why Russia has decided to defend itself from neighbors and how it may influence the life of Ukrainians:
Andrey Okara, Russian political expert:
- Internal passport is one of the few real institutes functioning at the CIS level. And if this institute is liquidated, not much of CIS itself will remain. It is counter-productive. And from the perspective of control over migration, introduction of foreign travel passports will not change much as well. It is a mean to complicate the life of citizens of neighboring countries, including Ukraine. Moreover, it is a mean of pressure on the eve of the Vilnius Summit. However, I hope common sense will prevail, and the tradition to cross Ukrainian-Russia border with internal passports will remain. At the same time, if Russia pledges to apply this measure to Ukraine, it will apply it to any other foreign country - nonmember of the Customs Union.
Yevhen Perebiynos, spokesman of Ukrainian Foreign Ministry:
- Such initiative has indeed been proposed by the Russia side, and the consultations are ongoing. However, it is too early to speak when and how it will be.
As of today there is an effective agreement between Ukraine and Russia of 1997, stipulating that the common border can be crossed with both foreign and internal passports.
We will consider all propositions of the Russian party, and if it decides to change the agreements we are ready to negotiate. However, international relations follow the principle of reflection, which means equal entry procedure for both countries will be introduced.
Volodymyr Ohryzko, ex-foreign minister of Ukraine (2007-2009):
- You know, I do not see any anti-Ukrainian measures here. When Ukrainian citizens travel to Poland, Italy or Spain they do not use old certificates issued by USSR authorities, but present modern foreign travel passports. Thus, I do not see a problem here. Moreover, I believe the procedure of traveling with foreign passports to Russia should have been introduced long time ago for our citizens to stop thinking that we keep living in some soviet space without borders. There are two independent states, and our relations are based on the international law, which stipulates that foreign citizens must cross the border with proper documents.
Moreover, after signing the Association agreement and introduction of visa free regime with the EU, Ukrainians will have to get proper documents to travel abroad. Thus, there will be no difficulty to present this document at the Russian border. The issue of economic sanctions Russia is applying to Ukraine is more serious and important to worry about than some initiative on foreign travel passports.
Denis Denisov, director of the Ukrainian branch of CIS institute:
- In fact, there are no official statements or agreements that similar producer will be introduced in the near future. We know that in response to Ukraine's European integration Russia threatens with certain difficulties in political and economic relations, including border crossing.
Russia has claimed that when Ukraine establishes visa free regime with the European Union, it will have to introduce additional measures to prevent illegal migration flows. However, as of today, there are no grounds for Russians and Ukrainians to use only foreign travel passports when crossing the common border.
Everybody understands how complicate this procedure is, and if city dwellers can get a foreign passport relatively easy, for country dwellers it may become a problem. I think that before adopting similar decisions, politicians should think about their peoples and problems they may face first.
Kost Bondarenko, political scientist:
- Russia has raised this question many times, and not only for Ukrainians. It is a normal practice. Our problem is that only 30% of Ukrainians have foreign travel passports. Well, it is time to get one. The matter does not concern some restrictions or visa regime. It is an adjustment of migration policy, as foreign travel passports have more information about a person, and the information can be read by electronic devices.
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