More than 40,000 football fans travelling to Moscow to watch the all-English Champions League final this month will not need visas, it was announced last night.
Supporters will only need to provide a match ticket, passport and completed immigration card to enter the country under the temporary rules.
The decision, which had been expected for several days, followed protracted negotiations between Russian and British diplomats, Uefa officials, and envoys from the two clubs that have reached the final, Manchester United and Chelsea.
There had been concern that Russia would not cope with the surge in visa requests from British fans hoping to watch the May 21 final.
The ongoing diplomatic tension between the UK and Russia was understood to have undermined attempts to secure the "visa-free" deal. Russian officials were believed to be angry at visa restrictions imposed on their own nationals entering Britain, and the dispute had threatened to hamper negotiations.
The special visa exemptions will only apply between May 19 and 23. Anyone overstaying the 72-hour entry period will have to pay the fee for a regular visa when leaving the country, officials said.
It\’s the only way that the problem could possibly have been solved. However, I do rather doubt the ability of the Russian bureaucracy to get that information all the way down to each and every border officer.
A prediction: there will be thousands of said fans who find themselves facing the demand for the $100 exit fee whether they actually owe it or not.