Moscow banned the entry of visitors from many foreign countries last spring as part of its efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic. It subsequently allowed citizens of some countries, including all other members of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) except Armenia, to visit Russia.
The ban directly affected tens of thousands of Armenian migrant workers earning a living in Russia on a seasonal or permanent basis. Many of them had to return to Armenia following lockdown restrictions imposed across Russia in March.
Most migrant workers have had trouble finding jobs in Armenia. The Armenian economy contracted by an estimated 8.5 percent in 2020 due to the pandemic and the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Armenian government has pressed Moscow to lift the ban since the summer, with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian repeatedly raising the matter during virtual EEU summits.
Pashinian announced the lifting of the ban on Wednesday at the start of a weekly session of his cabinet. He said that Armenian citizens testing negative for COVID-19 will be allowed to enter Russia by air from February 1 to March 1. He expressed confidence that the permission will be extended beyond March 1.
Health Minister Anahit Avanesian specified that travellers will have to download and use a special mobile phone application certifying the negative results of their coronavirus tests taken shortly before their departure from Armenia.
The Russian Embassy in Yerevan confirmed the information in a statement. It also released a list of 20 Russian international airports that will be allowed to handle regular flights to and from Armenia. They include Moscow’s three main airports.
Russian and Armenian airlines carried out as many as a dozen flights a day between Moscow and Yerevan before the pandemic.
“This is a very important program and I want to thank our partners from the Eurasian Economic Union, the government of the Russian Federation, all participants of the program for their active and productive cooperation,” said Pashinian. “This was the initiative of the Armenian government backed our partners.”
Pashinian emphasized the socioeconomic significance of the provisional lifting of the Russian ban. “As you know, many of our compatriots went to Russia as migrant workers,” he said.