VLADIVOSTOK, Russia--A grandiose thank-you by Russia's president to hundreds of Russian students has caused a bureaucratic headache for Japan, after Vladimir Putin declared he would send the youngsters there on vacation--and they would all need visas.
After a Sept. 9 news conference, Putin thanked 2,500 volunteers who helped marshal visitors at the APEC regional leaders summit in Vladivostok. He said he had told Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda a day earlier he wanted to send about 500 of the volunteers on a tour to Japan.
"I asked Prime Minister Noda to prepare visas in a hurry, and he said he would do everything possible," Putin said.
Putin said Noda asked when the visitors would arrive. Putin replied: Three days from now.
"He was stupefied," Putin said of Noda's response.
The students were to embark from Vladivostok on a cruise ship on the morning of Sept. 11, visiting Yokohama and Tokyo and returning to Russia by air Sept. 13, said a diplomatic source familiar with Russia-Japan relations.
The source said the Russian side made the request several days earlier, and Japanese officials are working to prepare the visas in time.
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