Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan  welcomed on Friday the Russian government’s decision to lift a coronavirus-related entry ban for Armenians, saying that it will reduce their economic hardship.

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 last March.

After repeated appeals from the Armenian government Moscow last week allowed Armenian citizens testing negative for COVID-19 to enter Russia by air from February 1 to March 1. They have to use a special mobile phone application certifying negative results of their coronavirus tests taken shortly before their departure from Armenia.

Pashinyan “noted with satisfaction” the lifting of the ban when he spoke at a meeting of the prime ministers of Russia and other EEU member states held in Kazakhstan. He said that the move is of “fairly great social and economic significance” for Armenia.

Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan said on Thursday that 1,423 Armenian citizens flew to Moscow and other Russian cities from Yerevan on February 1-3. More than 1,260 others returned to Armenia from Russia in the three-day period, Grigoryan told Pashinyan during a cabinet meeting in Yerevan.

Flights to Russia from Armenia’s second international airport located in Gyumri resumed on Thursday evening. Gyumri and the surrounding Shirak province have for decades suffered from high unemployment and poverty, forcing a large part of the region’s population to work in Russia.

 

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