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European Parliament approves visa-free travel for Ukrainians

An EU bill allowing Ukrainians into the bloc for short stays without visas has been overwhelmingly backed by the European Parliament. Amid the conflict with Russia, the deal is a show of closer EU-Ukraine ties.

Watch video 01:10

What's going to change when the EU eases visa requirements for Ukraine?

The European Parliament on Thursday voted overwhelmingly in favor of enabling Ukrainians to travel to the EU without a visa. The proposed bill passed by a 521-75 margin - with 36 abstentions.

Ukrainians who have biometric passports would be authorized to enter EU countries, except for the UK and Ireland, without a visa for 90 days in any 180-day period.

Ukrainians will also be able to access non-EU countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland without a visa.

Read: Ukraine slams Eurovision amid feud with Russia over entrant

"Great day for the people of Europe and Ukraine," said Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, a Swedish member of the EU parliament.

The legislation must still be formally approved by individual EU member states and should come into force in June.

Unlikely EU accession

While Ukraine's three-year conflict with Russia continues to simmer, the new visa waiver day looks to be a symbol of closer ties between the EU and Ukraine.

Kyiv's Europe Minister Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze said the vote was "a strong signal to the aggressor that Ukraine is on its way back to the European family."

But with a weak economy and endemic corruption, it's unlikely that the EU will be granting Ukraine accession to the bloc any time soon. Some states would also be unwilling to grant Ukraine EU membership over fears of further angering the country's Soviet-era ruler, Russia, by incorporating it into an alliance viewed by Moscow as hostile.

Watch video 03:01

'Visa-free travel is a symbolic step’

ksb/rt (AP, Reuters, dpa)

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