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Lithuanian Leaders Consider Kaliningrad Problem of Transit Travel - 1 April, 2003

The issue of Russian citizens' transit travel across Lithuanian territory to the kalinigrad Region 'is a completely new form of transit travel, which has never been seen before, either within the Schengen area, Lithuania or Russia and for this reason I prefer not to blame anyone for the fact that the issue is being resolved rather slowly,' Lithuanian Foreign Minister Antanas Valenis told journalists yesterday after a meeting with President Rolandas Paksas and Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas on the issue of transit travel to and from the Kaliningrad Region. The foreign minister added that a flexible system of transit travel must be created which suits both Lithuania and Russia. Moreover, the laws on transit travel must not breach the Schengen treaty.

Conservative Leader in Lithuania Vitautas Landsbergis called for the usual visa regulations to be applied to Russians traveling across Lithuania from July 1. However, the Lithuanian prime minister flatly refused this proposal. 'It is easy for Mr Landsbergis to talk like this, as he does not have to answer for anything,' Mr Brazauskas said. 'The new form of transit travel to Kaliningrad is not a simple affair. A lot of organisation work must be carried out in Russia and Lithuania and the number of consulates in both countries must be increased.'

As part of its preparation for EU entry, Lithuania is introducing new visa regulations for Russians traveling to the Kaliningrad Region across Lithuanian territory from July 1. An agreement was reached at the Russia-EU summit in Brussels in November last year which stipulates simplified visa regulations for train passengers. These regulations are expected to come into effect from July 1. However, there still remain a number of unsolved problems. For example the Russian State Duma still has not ratified the Russian-Lithuanian border agreement, which was signed in 1997. The new regulations are still being discussed by representatives of Lithuania, Russia and the EU.

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