On Tuesday, 16th of October Belarusian MPs approved the first readings of amendments to laws simplifying the entry of foreigners across the borders of Belarus. The chairman of the State Border Committee, Anatoly Lappo, presented the new proposals to Parliament.
When the changes to the laws take effect, foreigners will be able to cross the border zones without permits in order to visit sanatoriums and tourist centers. In addition, to enter the zone and cross the borders of Belarus, foreigners will be allowed to do so not only upon the basis of their passports, residency permits or birth certificates (in the case of minors), but also upon the basis of other documents, such as a driver’s license. Furthermore, the state duties for entry, temporary stays, or movement through the border zone during the year would be abolished, and a fee for issuing passes to the border zone would be established.
During the discussion in Parliament, MP Valery Voronetsky asked how the problems for foreigners crossing the Belarusian-Russian border have been solved. He cautioned that Russia does not overlook third-country nationals traveling from Belarus by car, bus or train.
“So far, while citizens of third countries are increasing [along the Belarusian-Russian border — TUT.BY], our colleagues insist that citizens of third countries cross via international checkpoints,” said Anatoly Lappo.
“This is detrimental to the attractiveness of tourism in regards to Belarus,” Voronetsky noted.
“I have the same opinion. We do everything on our part, but this is how it turns out,” said the chairman of the State Border Committee.
“The MFA is dealing with this issue, you know. But only a few laps have passed, and a decision has not been found,” said Speaker of Parliament Vladimir Andreichenko.
TUT.BY asked the head of the State Border Committee why it is impossible to establish at least one international checkpoint at the Belarusian-Russian border.
“We do not believe that there is a need for this, and we are not going to establish this on the Belarusian side.”
He agreed that there was a disadvantage for foreigners.
“We fulfill our agreements, but there is another state, and they are the owners of their land,” added Anatoly Lappo.
Recall that in February of last year, it was revealed that Russia was establishing a border zone on the border with Belarus. From May 15, all Belarusian flights to Russian airports were transferred to international terminals, and their passengers’ documents were checked. Belarusians began to complain that passing through passport control now takes more time. The state company, Belavia, reported that the decision of the Russian side may affect transit through Minsk. Despite this, Minsk has not taken any retaliatory measures.
On October 20 of the same year, the First Deputy Interior Minister of Russia, Alexander Gorovoy, said that in the spring of 2018, temporary border posts could be established on the border of Russia and Belarus. The appearance of border posts, the representative of the Russian department explained, reflects the concern of the Russian authorities about the openness of the frontier under the conditions existing since early 2017, when the Belarusian authorities established a five-day visa-free regime for citizens of 80 countries throughout the world.
In November 2017, the head of the Belarusian Foreign Ministry, Vladimir Makei, following a meeting in Moscow with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said that Belarus and Russia expected to sign an agreement concerning the mutual recognition of visas by the end of 2017. It was then announced that the agreement would become operational during the first quarter of 2018.
President of Belarus Aleksander Lukashenko reacted to the current situation on January 11 of this year.
“Since February 2016, the Belarusian-Russian border has acquired a secret status, as it is often called on the Internet and everywhere “the strangest border in Europe.” From that time onwards, the Russian side, without official notification, began to exercise full passport control over all persons traveling along the roads, and then by air and rail,” Aleksander Lukashenko emphasized. He demanded a resolution to this issue during 2018.
However, the problem was resolved only during the period of the Football World Cup in Russia.