EU not to wall exclave off Russia: Putin

Russia's President Vladimir Putin appealed to Baltic countries' leaders to take personal stock of the Kaliningrad Region issue, and come up with its political solution, he said to a session of the Council of the Baltic Sea State.

The Baltic exclave may find itself walled off by the Schengen zone from the Russian mainland after the adjacent Poland and Lithuania join the European Union.

President Putin will not put up with prospects for a visa regime introduced for Kaliningraders and Russians visiting the exclave--the arrangement will "tear apart the Russian sovereign territory", he emphatically remarked with a call to have the same visa arrangements for all Russians, in whatever part of the country they may live.

The simplest possible way out is to revive arrangements practised in West Berlin and throughout the two Germanies in the mid-1970s. "A settlement was found even then, with the Cold War at its peak." Not that the simplest is the best--"the pattern will throw us back to the Cold War time, but what we hear [about visas] is even worse," said the President.

He is sure the Kaliningrad issue will eventually find solution and provide ample chances for the exclave to have even closer links with the entire Europe than other parts of Russia.

Mr. Putin is fully aware of how complicated the matter is, and he respects the European Union stance. He, however, deems it necessary to reckon with the Russian stance, too. The President is sure the problem will be settled if the heads of Baltic states display political goodwill.

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