Russian borders are slowly opening up: the government approved restarting regular flights to Cuba, Serbia and Japan. Last week, Moscow also announced easing the rules for obtaining a Russian visa from 1 January 2021. However, citizens of only 14 countries are currently allowed to enter Russia as tourists due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Russia is pushing ahead with plans to gradually resume international air travel, reports Caspian News. The country closed its borders for foreigners in March in order to curb the spread of COVID-19. Only special flights intended to evacuate Russians from abroad were allowed. Russia has repatriated over 92,000 citizens from over 70 countries since the introduction of global coronavirus-related restrictions.
In August, Russia began the process of selectively reopening its borders with a range of countries launching flights “based on the epidemiological situation, morbidity rates and the principles of reciprocity”. At first, international flights were resumed from Moscow, St Petersburg and Rostov-on-Don, while Kazan, Kaliningrad and Novosibirsk were added to the list at the end of August.
In mid-October, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin signed a decree allowing to restart regular passenger air service with Serbia, Cuba and Japan. First flight to the capital of Japan was operated on 5 November by Aeroflot. There will be two flights per week to Tokyo from Moscow and one from Vladivostok. Flights from Moscow to Serbian Belgrade as well as Cuban cities are planned twice a week.
As of mid-October, the list of countries whose citizens were allowed to travel to Russia as tourists included only Belarus, Cuba, Egypt, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Maldives, South Korea, Serbia, Switzerland, Tanzania, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, the government intends to support Russia’s tourism sector. From 1 January 2021, citizens of 52 countries will be able to visit Russia with an electronic visa for tourism, business and humanitarian activities and private reasons. The single-entry visa valid for 60 days from the date of issuance will allow visitors to enter the country through 29 border crossings and stay in Russia for up to 16 days. Visitors will have the opportunity to apply for a visa on a special website or via a mobile application. After filling out a form, uploading a photo and scanned copy of a passport and paying a processing fee, they will have to wait maximum 4 days. Applicants will not be obliged to provide any additional documents such as proof of accommodation or ticket booking. The system is expected to boost Russia’s tourism industry, which has lost at least $7 billion since travel restrictions were introduced, but only after the reopening of borders.
By Anna Litvina