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Poland To Push For Visa-Free Travel In Russia's Kaliningrad

WARSAW -- Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski says Warsaw would consider a bilateral agreement with Moscow allowing visa-free travel for people living in the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad if he fails to convince the European Union to abolish the existing visa regime, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Sikorski announced in parliament on August 5 that he will write a letter to the EU in conjunction with Interior Minister Jerzy Miller asking it to change its current regulations requiring visas for Kaliningrad residents.

"If that fails, then we are prepared to take the risk of undertaking such an agreement even if some people in Brussels don't like it," he said. "Poland and Russia will show Europe our joint position and Europe will be persuaded by it."

Under current regulations, only residents living within 30 kilometers -- and in exceptional cases 50 kilometers -- from an EU border may travel to the neighboring state with just a passport. Poland already has such agreements with neighboring countries Ukraine and Belarus.

Sikorski says that, because of the size of the region, if the current EU regulations are implemented in Kaliningrad -- a Russian exclave surrounded by EU states Poland and Lithuania -- many residents would be unfairly prohibited from traveling to Lithuania or to Poland.

Sikorski said last week that he had discussed the issue with EU officials in Brussels. He visited Kaliningrad last month and has invited his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, to visit Poland.

The Kaliningrad region has about 960,000 inhabitants, with about 40 percent of them living in the capital, Kaliningrad.