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City news, 06.02.2003 17:38

St. Petersburg: Visa procedure to be axed in one year.

St. Petersburg: Visa procedure to be axed in one year. St. Petersburg tourism operators were thrown into confusion last week by an announcement by the local branch of the Foreign Ministry to scrap the fast-track 72-hour visas launched last Feb. 1 to streamline entry to Russia - because not enough people had taken advantage of the scheme. In an interview published Thursday in business daily Delovoi Peterburg, Viktor Lopatnikov, the head of the Foreign Ministry in St. Petersburg, said that the scheme "has not justified its existence, because only 150 foreigners took the opportunity to get the fast-track visas." However, federal Tourism Department representatives said Monday that the scheme has been abandoned only in Moscow - where just four tourists received the visas - but has been extended for another year in St. Petersburg and Kaliningrad. According to federal Tourism Department deputy head Alexander Sorokin, as many as 3,000 tourists visited the Kaliningrad enclave on fast-track visas last year, and about 150 used them to get to St. Petersburg.

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