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Monday, 11 November, 2002, 17:24 GMT
EU and Russia reach Kaliningrad deal
Kaliningrad border post
Kaliningrad residents may soon use a special pass
Russia and the European Union have reached an agreement on travel rules for the residents of the Russian Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad.

The accord on the enclave - which will be surrounded by EU territory once its neighbours, Lithuania and Poland, join the bloc in 2004 - was reached at a summit in Brussels between EU leaders and President Vladimir Putin.

Map showing Kaliningrad
Moscow had strongly objected to the idea that its citizens would have to apply for a formal visa to travel from Kaliningrad to mainland Russia, or vice-versa.

Under the deal, they will need only a cheap, multi-entry obtainable "facilitated transit document".

The dispute over the enclave had strained relations between Russia and Brussels for more than a year.

The resolution comes just a month before the EU is due to complete accession negotiations with 10 candidate countries, including Poland and Lithuania.

Non-stop trains

Both countries are due to tighten travel rules next year, as a first step towards their entry into the EU's so-called Schengen zone - an "open borders" travel regime - in 2004.

Pro-Moscow Chechens meeting President Putin
The EU says political dialogue is the only way ahead in Chechnya
In a concession to Moscow, Russians travelling long distances by train to reach relatives in Kaliningrad will be able to get the document at the border - although Lithuania will retain the right to turn away undesirable passengers or illegal immigrants.

The EU has also agreed to an early feasibility study on running fast, non-stop trains between Kaliningrad and mainland Russia which would sidestep the need for transit documents.

No such link exists at present.

The two sides also agreed on an action plan to co-operate more closely in the fight against terrorism - which Mr Putin said had become more urgent after recent events in Moscow - and they agreed to disagree on Chechnya.

While Moscow is conducting a new military crackdown in Chechnya, the EU insists that political dialogue is the only way ahead.

Chechnya protest

"We of course support Russia in the fight against terrorism. But I also want to say that it is not a long-term solution to... bomb the country to pieces," said Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen in an interview on Danish radio before his meeting Mr Putin.

Denmark currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, and the EU-Russia summit would have taken place in Copenhagen in normal circumstances.

The venue was changed to Brussels, after the Russians reacted furiously to a Chechen world congress held in the Danish capital two weeks ago.

Outside the Council of Ministers in Brussels, where the summit meetings taking place, demonstrators called for a halt to the violence in Chechnya and accused Russia of "exterminating the Chechen people".

The BBC's Michael Voss
"President Putin described the compromise as a mutually acceptable solution"
See also:

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