Poland, Russia agree on visa free travel for Kaliningrad

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Poland and Russia on Tuesday struck a deal on visa-free travel for their citizens living along the border of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and Poland, the Polish foreign ministry announced.

The agreement was signed in Moscow by the Russian and Polish foreign ministers respectively, Sergei Lavrov and Radoslaw Sikorski.

Under the deal, residents of Kaliningrad, a part of Russia sandwiched between European Union members Poland and Lithuania, and Poles living in two bordering regions will be able to cross the border on a visa-free basis for specific purposes.

These include maintaining family, social and cultural ties as well as business links but do not apply to employment.

Kaliningrad residents coming to Poland using special permits issued by the Polish consulate in the exclave, will be restricted to travel within specified geographical limits and periods of time.

They must have resided in Kaliningrad for at least three years to qualify for the permits, and face a five-year travel ban to Poland should they breach any of the terms.

The agreement applies only the 950,000 Russian residents of Kaliningrad and is designed to ease their mobility in light of tighter Schengen-area visa rules which apply in Poland.

© 2011 AFP

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