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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

China flags new visa-free travel agreement with Russia

Beijing’s consular attache in Kazan says several issues would first have to be resolved before such a deal could be finalized

Russian tourists may no longer require a visa to travel to China, the country’s consular attache in Kazan told TASS news agency last weekend.

“We have already canceled visas for tourists in a group,” Chen Borui told the outlet on the sidelines of the sixth Global Forum of Young Diplomats on Saturday. He added that a completely visa-free arrangement between the two countries would “definitely happen in the future.”

Read more: UK officials banned from calling Russia and China ‘hostile states’ – The Times

The diplomat stressed, however, that in order to implement such a deal, a number of issues related to security and migration would first have to be resolved, particularly in Russia’s Far East region.

“In order to control the situation, it is necessary to resolve issues in these areas,” Chen said.

Earlier this month, Russia and China reinstated a reciprocal visa-free travel agreement that allows organized tourist groups consisting of between five and 50 people to visit their respective countries without a visa. That deal had originally been signed in 2000, but was suspended in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Moscow has also established a similar agreement with Iran and extended a proposal to sign such a deal with India as well. Additionally, on August 1, Russia also rolled out a new scheme that allows foreign citizens from 55 countries to obtain an electronic visa, which is valid for 60 days and allows tourists to visit the country for up to 16 days.

Read more: India and China agree to resolve border issue

According to a recent report by the Federal Security Service (FSB), tourism in Russia saw a significant surge in the first six months of 2023, with the number of visitors growing by 130% compared to last year, accounting for over 187,000 people. The FBS noted, however, that this number is still 16.5 times lower than pre-pandemic figures, when Russia was visited by nearly 2 million tourists between January and June of 2019.