In an effort to boost Russian tourism to Israel, the government launched its on-line visa application service for visitors from that country, the Foreign and Tourism ministries said Sunday. The launch follows a two-month trial period for the new system, after the government gave the go-ahead for the project in July last year. Under the new procedure, Russian citizens and tour operators can now apply for tourist visas via the Internet instead of from the Israeli Embassy in Moscow, thus cutting a large portion of the red tape involved in the application procedure. Applicants will subsequently be invited for a follow-up interview by the embassy. The government is examining introducing similar Internet services to other countries in the region, the ministries said. The Tourism Ministry has targeted the former Soviet Union as an area for potential growth in tourism, given the prominence of the Russian language in Israel. Last year saw 68,000 Russian tourists arrive in Israel, showing an increase of 22 percent from 2004.