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Russian lawmakers to consider booking system to cross land borders

Russian lawmakers to consider booking system to cross land borders
By Reuters
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-Russian lawmakers are preparing legislation that will make it mandatory for people to book a time and place in advance to cross the border, raising fresh fears that the Kremlin could impose more restrictions on travel in and out of the country.

Amendments to a transport law, introduced to parliament on Monday, stipulate that "vehicles belonging to Russian transport companies, foreign transport companies, citizens of the Russian Federation, foreign citizens, stateless persons and other road users" would have to reserve a date and time "in order to cross the state border of the Russian Federation".

Following speculation that the measures could be used to make it harder for ordinary Russians to leave the country, Russian news agencies quoted the transport ministry as saying the curbs would only apply to cargo trucks, and only be enforced at some, not all, of Russia's land border crossing points.

"The main purpose of the bill is to streamline the movement of trucks flowing through checkpoints and reduce the congestion of cargo transport near border checkpoints," the RIA Novosti news agency cited the transport ministry as saying.

Asked about the measures in a briefing with reporters earlier on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to provide more information on the initiative, which could come into force on March 1, if approved by Russia's parliament.

Hundreds of thousands of Russians left the country last year, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a harsh crackdown on domestic opponents of the Kremlin and a "partial mobilisation" drive that saw more than 300,000 men conscripted to fight in Ukraine.

Fears that Russia could close its borders or restrict Russians seeking to leave the country have swirled ever since Russia launched what it calls a "special military operation" in Ukraine.

It was not clear when the required readings of the draft amendments would take place. A notice on the State Duma's website says they were submitted to be considered by the parliament in February 2023.

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