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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lithuania Tightens Rules for Visas

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- Lithuania imposed stricter visa requirements for residents of neighboring Kaliningrad over the weekend, amid Moscow fears the Russian exclave could become more isolated.

Under the new visa rules, the first stage in setting up a new visa regime before Lithuania's entry into the EU, residents of Kaliningrad will have to fill out a detailed request to cross through Lithuanian territory.

"After midnight [Friday], all trains arriving from Russia will be checked according to the new transit rules," said the spokesman for Lithuania's border police, Rokas Pukinskas.

Border guards will also no longer accept Russian military identification cards or birth certificates for children under 14 who are traveling alone as valid transit documents, he said.

Heeding Russian requests, Lithuania did say it will not require that in-transit passengers receive entry and exit stamps in their passports. But they refused calls to postpone the new requirements pending further talks.

Kaliningrad -- which will be surrounded by EU members after Lithuania and Poland join in 2004 -- has been a topic of heated discussion between the European Union, Russia and Lithuania in recent months.

Previously, residents of Kaliningrad had easy access to Lithuania, merely having to show a valid ID as they traveled to and from mainland Russia.

Both Lithuania and the EU have called for tighter borders, amid fears that smugglers and illegal immigrants from Kaliningrad could use holes in the 250-kilometer-long Lithuanian-Russian border to enter the EU.

The Russian Foreign Ministry as recently as Wednesday expressed concern about the introduction of the new rules.

"Deals that damage Lithuania's sovereign rights and national interests are unacceptable," Darius Jurgelevicius, who has headed Lithuania's team negotiating the issue with Russia, said in a recent interview.