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Citing the need to boost the domestic tourism industry, Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian has instructed the Armenian government to make it even easier for Russians to travel to Armenia.

Abrahamian said on Thursday that Russian tourists should be allowed to enter the country with their internal passports that are usually valid only within Russia.

“Let’s work with [with Russian government bodies] and try to find a solution so that they can visit Armenia, a Eurasian Economic Union member state, with their internal passports. That will contribute to tourism,” he told Gagik Yeganian, the head of the State Migration Service, during a cabinet meeting in Yerevan.

The Russian internal passports, a leftover from the Soviet Union, serve as registration documents which tie their holders to a particular city and are required for formalizing various transactions and receiving public services. Russians have been able to enter only a handful of foreign states, notably Belarus and, until last March, Ukraine, with such identity documents. They need international passports to travel to the rest of the world.

Abrahamian said that only 10 percent of Russia’s citizens hold international passports, implying that many more of them would visit Armenia if the authorities in Yerevan ease their travel regulations for them. The State Migration Service should therefore start negotiating with relevant Russian bodies on the matter as soon as possible, he said.

The number of Russian tourists visiting Armenia has already increased significantly in the last several years. According to local travel agencies, they are attracted by a visa-free regime between the two countries, relatively inexpensive food and accommodation, Armenians’ traditionally friendly attitudes towards Russians, and the fact that the Russian language is still widely understood in Armenia.

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