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Russia, EU Leaders Reach Agreement on Kalinigrad Dispute - 2002-11-11

The European Union and Russia have agreed on terms for Russian citizens to travel between Russia's Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad and Russia proper, after the countries surrounding the enclave join the EU in 2004. The deal regarding the Kaliningrad enclave was struck at an EU-Russia summit in Brussels.

Kaliningrad has been cut off from the rest of Russia since the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991. Russians living in the enclave have been able to travel to Russia itself through Lithuania and Poland without visas. But that will change when those two countries join the EU.

EU rules require them to strengthen border controls, and issue visas for most non-EU citizens, including Russians. But Russia has protested strenuously that its citizens should not have to obtain visas to travel between different parts of their country.

The EU and Russia were deadlocked on the issue until Monday when, after down-to-the-line negotiations, they finally struck a compromise that will allow Russians traveling between Kaliningrad and Russia to use a special document akin to a multiple-entry visa.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, whose country holds the EU's rotating presidency, says the deal satisfies Russian concerns and EU requirements. And, he said, it also takes into account Lithuania's right to control access to its territory.

"The solution reflects the balance between the interests of the European Union, the candidate countries and the Russian Federation," he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he, too, is satisfied with the result.

But the two sides did not see eye-to-eye on the situation in Chechnya. Though Russia says its anti-insurgency campaign in Chechnya is part of the global war against terrorism, Mr. Rasmussen says the EU believes the issue is more complex.

"I underlined that the conflict in Chechnya cannot be regarded only as a terrorist problem. A political solution is the only way to lasting peace," he said.

Mr. Putin said Russia does not oppose a political solution, but will not negotiate with what he called international terrorists or religious extremists. "All those who want peace in Chechnya, those who aspire to peace, are entitled to participate in this process," he said.

While about 100 demonstrators gathered outside the summit site to protest the conflict in Chechnya, the two sides drew up a joint statement saying they stand united against terrorism, with due regard for the rule of law, democratic principles and the territorial integrity of states. But there was no mention of Chechnya.