MOSCOW (AP) _ Russia and the United States on Friday formally lifted travel restrictions on journalists and business people, burying a Cold War practice that kept huge parts of each other's territory closed for years.

The agreement, worked out last June but put into effect on Friday, was a belated acknowledgement of the freedoms that travelers from each side have been enjoying since the Soviet collapse in December.

It also could help the struggling Russian economy by erasing the remaining limits on foreign investors' travel to Russian military factories or locations, and by Russian business people's visits to U.S. sites.

''It's a major step forward, something we've all been working very hard on,'' U.S. Ambassador Robert Strauss told reporters Friday. ''I've been pushing this since I arrived here. The press has pushed me.''

Both countries had imposed tight travel restrictions on Western diplomats, journalists and tourists outside Moscow for decades. Under the 1975 Helsinki human rights treaty, the countries began allowing travel to certain areas with 48 hours' advance notice.

In recent years, the United States lifted most travel restrictions on Russian visitors, letting them go most places open to American civilians.

After the Soviet collapse in late 1991, Boris Yeltsin's Russian government also pledged to ease the restrictions.

But Russia's rules remained confused, and the legislature this year passed a law closing several areas again to foreigners. Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev said in July that Russia might drop its rules if the United States did.

The closed sites were mostly those with industries that develop, produce and store weapons of mass destruction or use nuclear materials. In some cases, the restrictions applied only to military bases or factories inside otherwise open cities.

''At long last, it's finally over,'' said Viktor Linnik, a onetime correspondent in New York for the former Communist Party newspaper Pravda. ''In all my years in the States, despite all the improvement in Soviet- American relations, we had those restrictions.''

Linnik and Strauss, speaking separately, blamed reluctant government officials in both countries for the belated agreement.

The agreement, signed by Kozyrev and then-U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, removes ''all travel controls on Russian journalists and commercial representatives in the U.S. and on American journalists and businessmen in Russia.''

It removes requirements for journalists or business people to inform the State Department or Foreign Ministry before a trip, and also frees them to use any airline or travel agent. Neither rule has been enforced in the last year.