BRUSSELS -- The European Parliament has approved visa liberalization for Ukraine, a crucial step toward enabling Ukrainians to travel to the European Union without obtaining visas.
The measure passed on April 6 by a vote of 521 to 75, with 36 EU lawmakers abstaining.*
EU member states must also approve visa liberalization for Ukraine before the measure enters into force.
Ambassadors representing the 28 EU member states are expected to approve the deal when they meet in Brussels on April 26, and EU sources have told RFE/RL that EU ministers are expected to rubber-stamp the decision on May 11.
The deal would be sealed in a signing ceremony expected shortly after that.
Diplomats have expressed hope that the visa-free regime will enter into force in mid-June.
The decision will apply to all Ukrainian citizens who have biometric passports, including residents of the areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed separatists and of Crimea, the Ukrainian region that Russia illegally annexed in 2014.
Many in Ukraine, which saw Russia seize Crimea in 2014 and has been mired in a deadly conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the east for three years, see the visa deal as a symbol of closer ties to the EU.
The decision will apply to all Ukrainian citizens who have biometric passports. They will be able to enter most EU member states for up to 90 days during any 180-day period.
Visa-free travel to the EU for citizens of Georgia, another former Soviet republic under pressure from Russia, began on March 28.