MOSCOW, August 24 (RIA Novosti) - Chinese tourists will no longer need visas to visit Russia beginning August 25, when Chinese authorities put Russia on the list of countries for organized package tours.
Natela Shengeliya, the deputy director of the Russian Federal Tourism Agency, said Russia and China signed an agreement on visa-free tours in 1993 and complemented it with an agreement regulating the work of tourist firms in 2000. However, these agreements were used for tourism in border regions, but exploited by the shuttle trade and those who came to the country and stayed to work.
According to Shengeliya, 1.7 million Russians visited China in 2004, while 800,000 Chinese arrived in Russia, no more than 200,000 of them for tourist purposes. Russia could host up to one million Chinese tourists in 2006.
The interstate agreement stipulates tough regulations for the registration of a tour and provides for 30-day, visa-free stay in the country.
A special assistance center with Chinese-speaking staff has been established in Russia to help tourists. Every tourist will be provided with a leaflet containing information on emergency situations and the center's phone number.