Moscow: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin Tuesday defended the country`s immigration policy, saying the introduction of visas for the former Soviet republics would finally push them away out of Russia`s sphere of influence.
"We will lose them then," he said, adding that Russia will weaken as a result.
Visas will have a number of negative consequences for Russia, which may affect Russia`s economic development, production and living standards, he warned.
Law-abiding people coming to Russia should not be affected while restrictions should only target illegal immigrants, Putin said.
Over 70 percent of Russians approve of a stricter migration policy, including criminal penalties for violating immigrant law, polls have shown.