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Belarus Extends Visa-Free Travel For Tourists To 30 Days


Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka (right) meets with Russian President Putin in Minsk on June 19

Belarus is extending visa-free travel for tourists from five to 30 days in a bid to attract more visitors to the former Soviet republic.

Authoritarian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka on July 24 signed a decree providing that visitors from 80 countries, including 39 in Europe, as well as the United States, Australia, and Japan, can stay in the country for 30 days.

The decree will enter into force when it's published in a couple of days.

It says the measure is aimed at "promoting further development of the tourism sector" and making Belarus more attractive as a host for sports events and festivals.

The visa-free rule applies to visitors flying in and out of Minsk's main airport.

The visa exemption does not apply to foreigners arriving or leaving from neighboring Russia because of a lack of controls at the common border.

Belarus is a member of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, regional groupings observers say Russian President Vladimir Putin uses to seek to bolster Moscow's influence in the former Soviet Union and counter the EU and NATO.

Lukashenka, who has been president since 1994, tolerates little dissent and protests are frequently broken up, which has earned Belarus the nickname "the last dictatorship in Europe."

He won a fifth term in a 2015 election that was judged by Western monitors to be neither free nor fair.

With reporting by AFP
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