By Emil Danielyan
Hundreds of trucks and other vehicles stranded on the Russian-Georgian border for more than a month have been allowed to proceed to Armenia after it was briefly reopened by Russian authorities, officials said on Monday.
A spokeswoman for the Armenian Ministry of Transport and Communications confirmed reports that the main Russian-Georgian border crossing at Verkhni Lars was reopened for traffic for several hours on Sunday.
The official, Tamar Ghalechian, told RFE/RL that about 600 vehicles, many of them laden with commercial cargos, crossed into Georgia and began arriving in Armenia the next morning. She said there are still Armenian nationals stuck on the Russian side of the frontier and the Armenian government hopes that the Russians will let them through as well.
Itar-Tass news agency quoted the head of the Georgian border guard unit at Verkhni Lars, Mindia Arabuli, as saying that the Russian side sealed the mountainous crossing later on Sunday. “There is no information about the checkpoint's further schedule,” he said.
Russia imposed what amounts to an overland blockade on neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan immediately after the September 3 school massacre in Beslan which it says was made possible by cross-border movements of Chechen militants responsible for such terrorist attacks. The move, denounced by the Georgian government, has also reflected negatively on Armenia, complicating its already difficult communication with the outside world.
Over the past few weeks Armenian leaders have lobbied Moscow to lift the transport embargo, with President Robert Kocharian personally raising the issue with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. Transport Minister Andranik Manukian announced on Wednesday that the Russians agreed to open border for the Armenia-bound freight as a result repeated talks between Kocharian and Putin.
The blockade, which drew a rare unanimous criticism of Russia in the Armenian media, was briefly suspended only five days later. Ghalechian stressed that it did not resolve the problem.
“This is only a temporary solution,” she said. “The border remains closed.”