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    Belarus Asks Russia to Keep Foreigner Transit Rules as Talks Continue

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    Belarus wants Russia to keep current transit rules for third country nationals passing through the two countries' common border while talks continue on resolving the issue, Belarusian Foreign Ministry spokesman Dmitry Mironchik said Thursday.

    MINSK (Sputnik) Belarus and Russia have recently become concerned over the open Russian-Belarusian border, which could have been crossed by nationals from third countries for two decades. The practice went largely ignored despite rules stating that foreigners must cross into Russia and back via international checkpoints. In December, the Belarusian customs committee looked into a petition asking for border checks to be installed on the border with Russia. Russia started enforcing the transit rules earlier in the year, forcing foreigners to pass via other states.

    "We are proposing to our Russian partners to keep the previous tested practice while talks are being conducted," Mironchik said.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has previously stated that the issue might be looked into by an intergovernmental working group by the end of the year. The working group was formed in December. The issue was also discussed by the two countries' foreign ministers in November.

    The issue impacts mainly EU nationals from the Baltic states who previously used the Belarusian-Russian border to get into Russia. Russia's enforcing of the border rules meant that Baltic nationals had to cross into Russia via international checkpoints on their own countries' borders. Heavy cargo vehicles are currently exempt from the rules.

    Previously, third country nationals received common Russian-Belarusian visas upon entry to Belarus. The border between the two countries was opened in 1995 a year before the Union State of Russia and Belarus was created.

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