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Putin Calls For Visa-Free Travel for Athletes

16:55 19.03.2013 (Last updated 19:30 19.03.2013)

Vladimir Putin | Olympic Games 2014
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KAZAN, Russia, March 19 (R-Sport) - Russian President Vladimir Putin called Tuesday for visa-free travel for athletes and sportspeople competing in an upcoming series of major sports events in Russia.

Russia is to host competitions including next year's Winter Olympics, the 2018 football World Cup and August's world athletics championships.

"Until the year 2018, in Russia around 20 of the biggest international competitions should take place, world championships," Putin said.

"It would be right if we introduced visa-free travel for all athletes who will be taking part in these competitions."

Russia typically uses a simplified visa system for athletes at major competitions. Putin has already used his decree powers to secure visa-free travel for athletes in July's University Games in Kazan and also signed into law in December measures to simplify the visa system for foreign Olympic athletes and volunteers.

The Russian government is considering a bill that would allow visa-free travel for athletes and sports officials from “non-dangerous countries,” Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said Tuesday in Krasnogorsk, near Moscow.

The bill that will come before the Cabinet of Ministers foresees 10-day stays for people involved in cultural, sports or business events.

“It gives the opportunity for visa-free travel to Russia for so-called non-dangerous countries for a period of up to 10 days for the hosting of major events - sporting, cultural, business - all the championships, matches, Christmas festivals, Easter festivals and so on,” Medinsky said.

He did not say when the new bill could be brought before parliament if approved by the cabinet. It was not immediately clear which countries could be deemed non-dangerous.

In November, Medinsky’s deputy Anna Malinova said the Culture Ministry was considering some form of visa-free travel for spectators at sports events including the Olympics, providing they had a ticket or invitation. Medinsky did not mention spectators when discussing the bill Tuesday.

Putin has previously spoken of his desire not to require visas for fans attending the 2018 World Cup, as was the case for supporters coming to the 2008 Champions League final in Moscow between England's Chelsea and Manchester United.

Since Malinova’s comments, talks on visa-free travel between Russia and the EU have hit obstacles. Russia’s Ambassador at Large Anvar Azimov, who is involved in the negotiations, said last week a solution was “unlikely” in time for Sochi 2014.

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