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EU-Russia visa deal first step to visa-free travel - Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that a visa facilitation agreement with the European Union was the first step toward visa-free travel.

SOCHI, May 25 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that a visa facilitation agreement with the European Union was the first step toward visa-free travel.

Russia and the European Union earlier Thursday signed agreements on visa facilitation and readmission at the Russia-EU summit in southern Russian resort city of Sochi.

"To start with, the simplified visa issuance procedure will be available to students, journalists, businessmen, culture activists, scientists and athletes," Putin said. "But this decision is the first step towards the introduction of visa-free regime for citizens of Russia and the European Union."

"I am positive that the introduction of new simplified visa regulations will soon become an impetus for the expansion of humanitarian cooperation, as well as for the joint work and interaction of artistic and scientific intelligentsia, young people and students," Putin said.

He added that summit participants hoped the new agreements on visa facilitation and readmission would come into force by the end of the year.

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