Russia to repeal visa requirement for non-citizens

The Russian Foreign Ministry has drafted a presidential decree that would give the rights of visa-free travel to Russia also to those Latvian and Estonian non-citizens who were born after February 6, 1992, when the Soviet Union citizenship ceased to exist, BNS reported Tuesday via pravda.ru.

According to the draft document published on the website of the Russian draft legislation, a separate category of non-citizens has emerged - non-citizens in Latvia and Estonia who were born after February 6, 1992 and have come of age, as well as their offspring, who cannot enjoy visa-free travels to Russia.

Artificial division of people in two groups only aggravates their already complicated situation and plays into the hands of local nationalists and politicians spreading anti-Russia sentiment in the Baltic states, the authors of the document said.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, the new visa-free regime will apply to about 6,000 non-citizens in Latvia and Estonia who were born after February 6, 1992, and their children.

The problem was highlighted by an incident in August this year when a non-citizen of Latvia who studies in Moscow ran into problems with passport control at the Latvia-Russia border.

The woman was told she needed a visa to cross the Russian border, and explained that only non-citizens born before February 1992 were permitted to enter Russia without a visa from August 10. Russian border guards told her she had to pay a fine of 30 euros, but eventually with the help from the Latvian embassy in Russia she was issued a transit visa and was able to return to Latvia.

October 2016 marked 25 years since Latvia's interim parliament granted citizenship to Latvians that were citizens during the inter-war period, and their offspring, leaving about a third of Latvia's residents to become non-citizens. 

(The story originally - and mistakenly - claimed that only ethnic Latvians were granted citizenship upon restoration of independence in 1991. The error has since been corrected.)

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