I’ve recently have been once again looking at the issue. It appears that the only way to get the FSB (former KGB) permit is via a local incoming travel agency. Those I’ve contacted (www.atv51.ru, snow51.ru, and www.m-tour.ru) would only arrange permits to the participants of their tours that start at ~$400/person. I’m continuing to look for one that would provide assistance with no strings in the form of tour participation attached.
I can meet you at the train station, help you check into a hotel, recommend a place to eat, suggest places to visit, take you there, keep you from getting lost, and in every other way make you stay in Kandalaksha pleasant and comfortable. All totally free if you speak English to me and encourage me to do the same.
Pulled up enough courage to dial the KGB Murmansk number given on top of the application to visit Sredny and Rybachy on the regional Ministry of Natural Resources site. To my surprise they picked up the phone on my first attempt and quickly referred me to another number, +7 (8152) 454108, and that number again answered, but the answer was alas that yes, a special permission is required, and the traveller has to contact KGB via one of the registered tourist organizations in the Murmansk region, NOT directly as the statement on top of the form seems to imply. They say it takes about a month to get the permit.
So we now now how to easily get a credible answer as to what is closed off to foreign travellers, and an approximate procedure, although a local company with a proven track record of arranging for these permits needs to be found and tested.
Got a question from a Finnish traveller where application form for the permit mentioned here a year ago has disappeared. Having done a search, I have re-discovered it in a different location of the same Murmansk Ministry of Natural Resourses site.
The question of whether foreigners can or cannot visit Sredny and Rybachy, and what permit if any is required, remains open. No permit is required according to the Barents Observer article but on top of the Ministry form it says is is indeed needed for non-Russians.
By some reason I don’t feel like calling the KGB headquarters in Murmansk even though they are closest to possessing the most current info.
Just spoke with someone actively involved in the Umba tourism scene about the feasibility of getting an official permit for foreigners to visit the area. Was told that success in obtaining such is so extremely rare as not to be worth trying.
In all probability the same applies to other “no foreigner access” areas.
The consequences of being caught there without the permit is a fine and termination of your Russian visa, and denial of visa application for several years. And the police are said to be happy to charge trespassers.
B-port reports yet another host in Nickel busted for providing “fictional registration” to foreigners. According to Article 322.3 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code, “fictional registration” is registration without intent to provide living space. At one point, years ago, it was a common $25-50 service available to foreign travellers!
Recently I’ve been seeing lots of active advertising for Russian visa support by LLCenter, looked at and explored their site, liked what I saw and am sharing it with you, a potential travellers to Russia.
At visa.llcenter.ru you’ll find both comprehensive Russian visa information, clearly presented, and specific offers to make it real.
The service is geared towards those who prefer to make the visa invitation and registration business online.
I’m happy to say not much has changed in the last 2-3 years, after I stopped actively providing visa support and registration. Those who don’t want to be hassled exploring the system are still welcomed to talk to me about their visa support and related needs.
Talks are under way again on allowing foreigners travelling by boat or ferry to get into the country for up to three days without a visa. From what I recall this issue was being discussed from over a year ago. Some sort of a decision is now promised by Feb. 12 2016.