People, Travel

Ukrainians Celebrate Visa-Free EU Travel

Only those with biometric passports can take advantage of the visa-free travel.Only those with biometric passports can take advantage of the visa-free travel.

Ukrainians were on Sunday celebrating the first day of visa-free access to the European Union, with hundreds crossing the border as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko proclaimed a dramatic "breakaway" from Moscow.

The move is symbolic for Kiev where a pro-EU revolt in 2014 toppled the previous Russia-backed government and was followed by Moscow's annexation of the Crimea Peninsula sparking an ongoing protracted conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, AFP reported.

"The visa-free regime for Ukraine has started! Glory to Europe! Glory to Ukraine!" Poroshenko tweeted early Sunday after hundreds of Ukrainians crossed the EU border.

Only those with biometric passports—containing a microchip with personal data, including fingerprints—can take advantage of the visa-free travel for the time being. Late Saturday, Poroshenko addressed a crowd in Kiev's European Square, saying the new travel regime "symbolizes a final breakaway of our state from the Russian empire" and calling the future a "different historical era".

"The words 'back in the USSR' will be heard only listening to The Beatles," he said. Poroshenko noted that Kiev is also seeking to boost European integration with cheaper rail links and more low-cost air connections with EU cities.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin also cheered on Twitter after passengers on flights from Kiev were able to enter Warsaw, Budapest, Frankfurt and other airports.

"#Bezviz (no visa) is just the beginning!" he wrote.


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