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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Proposes EU Allow Russians Visa-Free Travel

ReutersPutin touring a nature reserve in the far eastern Primorye region on Tuesday.
President Vladimir Putin has addressed European Union leaders with a bold proposal to consider visa-free travel between Russia and the EU as a way to resolve the dispute over the Baltic Sea exclave of Kaliningrad, his office said Tuesday.

In a letter about the Kaliningrad dispute, Putin suggested the EU leaders "consider a new Russian integration initiative that envisages putting into practice the ambitious goal of a shift in the future to visa-free travel for citizens of Russia and the EU," Putin's press service said in a statement released to the media.

Russia has pushed for a transport corridor that would allow visa-free travel between Kaliningrad and the rest of the country, but EU officials have rejected the idea, instead proposing eased visa procedures.

Putin said the Kaliningrad issue would determine the future of Russia's relations with the EU and voiced hope that the parties would be able to reach an agreement before a Russia-EU summit in Copenhagen in November.

There was no immediate public comment to the letter from EU national leaders, the EU executive commission in Brussels or officials in Denmark, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency.

However, an EU diplomat in Brussels who spoke on condition of anonymity suggested that in the long term, EU governments would welcome a move to visa-free travel if certain conditions are met, including controls to ensure criminals and illegal immigrants did not take advantage of the visa-free system.

Putin was in the Far East on Tuesday and did not comment publicly on the issue.