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Russia Reassures Armenia Over Border Closure


Belarus/Russia — Heavy trucks enter Russia from Belarus, March 17, 2020

Russia has assured Armenia that the coronavirus-related closure of its borders will not apply to cargo shipments between the two countries which are vital for Yerevan.

Moscow announced on Saturday that it will close all Russian border crossings on Monday as part of its efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus. The decision raised concerns in Armenia whose economy is heavily dependent on trade with Russia.

“I want to say that such worries are misplaced because that decision will not affect Armenian cargoes in any way,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said after speaking with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Mishustin by phone later on Saturday.

“This fact was confirmed during my phone conversation with Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin,” added in a live Facebook broadcast. “Cargo will continue to shipped from Armenia to Russia and from Russia to Armenia just like it has until now.”

A readout of the phone call released by the Russian government likewise said that Mishustin and Pashinian “stressed the importance of maintaining the flow of goods between Armenia and Russia in full.” It said the two men also discussed measures against the coronavirus pandemic taken by their governments.

Russia is Armenia’s main trading partner and export market, with bilateral trade exceeding $2.2billion last year. Armenian exports to Russia rose by 10 percent to almost $735 million, according official Armenian statistics.

Georgia -- The Upper Lars border crossing with Russia, 30May2015.
Georgia -- The Upper Lars border crossing with Russia, 30May2015.

The bulk of Armenian-Russian trade is carried out via Georgia and its sole land border crossing with Russia in particular. Commercial traffic through the Upper Lars crossing has reportedly been halted in recent days, leaving hundreds of trucks stranded at the Armenian-Georgian border.

Pashinian blamed the disruption on heavy snowfalls and said the Georgian-Russian border is now gradually reopened for freight shipping thanks to improving weather conditions. Pashinian and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia discussed the matter in a phone call on Friday.

“In recent days we have been actively working with our Russian and Georgian partners to normalize the movement of trucks,” the Armenian premier said on Saturday. “Our conversations on this subject are quite productive, and I want to thank our Georgian and Russian partners for the constructive dialogue.”

In a separate decision, the Russian government also suspended all regular and charter flights to and from Russia from March 27. It said Russian airlines will still be allowed to fly to other countries to bring Russian citizens back or if they are authorized by special government decisions.

According to Armenia’s Civil Aviation Committee, three Russian airlines were due to carry out Moscow-Yerevan flights on Sunday. It was not clear if Armenian citizens were allowed to board their planes.

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