Russia should toughen its migration policy and continue to maintain a visa-free regime with former Soviet republics, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Thursday, according to Xinhua.

"Russia is not going to isolate itself from anyone, but we definitely need to improve the quality of the migration policy, including labor migration," Putin said at a meeting of the Federal Migration Service.

The prime minister urged an easing of procedures for issuing work permits for highly skilled professionals and to restrict the illegal inflow of lower-qualified migrants.

"They (foreign professionals) are a drop in the ocean while they are the very people we need," the Interfax news agency quoted Putin as saying.

Putin also asked to punish those who house illegal immigrants or unlawfully legalize them in Russia.

In addition, Putin admitted that the visa-free policy with members of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) had resulted in certain difficulties, but Moscow intended to keep it for political reasons. Enditem