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February 29
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The Upper Lars checkpoint on the Georgian-Russian border should not be considered as just a checkpoint; it is a symbol. The closure of the Upper Lars checkpoint means the termination of Armenian-Russian relations; after all, goods that are difficult to find elsewhere come from Russia to Armenia. Gagik Aghajanyan, executive director of Armenia’s large freight-forwarding company Apaven, told this to Armenian News-NEWS.am.

"Where does the grain come from in Armenia? We import 400 thousand tons of wheat, a considerable part of which is imported from Russia—although, of course, it is good if there are various suppliers. Politicians should not interfere in the activities of business entities and say that they are going to close the Upper Lars checkpoint so that business entities sell their goods in other places. Business entities know better how to organize this work and get the maximum profit, which is also reflected in taxes," he noted.

Aghajanyan informed that in recent years, cargo carriers have held discussions with members of the Armenian government and the president only four times.

"Sometimes these discussions have borne their fruits, but we cannot forbid politicians to spontaneously come up with this or that statement," he added.

Aghajanyan said he is not surprised by Russia's recent actions, taking into account the foreign political vector by which the Armenian authorities are guided.

"[Natural] gas [from Russia] may also become more expensive [in Armenia] tomorrow. We [Armenia] should either be ready for it or look for ways out of the situation that may arise. We are not against the expansion of the diversification of the consumption market of our products—although now as well the export is carried out not only to Russia. On the other hand, it is very difficult to penetrate the markets where nothing is known about your product, in the case when a product is taken to Russia for which there is no need to spend money on advertising. Only the ‘Armenian Apricot’ or ‘Armenian Brandy’ brand is enough for the sale of these products in Russia. And now try to send that brandy to China. There will never be as much amount sold there as in Russia, whose population is ten times smaller," said Aghajanyan.

According to him, the Upper Lars checkpoint is objectively closed for trucks due to weather conditions.

"Traffic jams also occur [there] due to the shifts of customs service employees—although this factor does not play a significant role, as the delay in this case can last a maximum of two hours. In this case, the situation is different, the cars are simply standing at various terminals and cannot reach the checkpoint. As long as the road is not officially [re]opened, the movement of cargo transport is impossible there, and this will happen when the relevant services bring the road to a proper condition after the snow," he noted.

Our interlocutor, however, did not see any political context in this regard.

In his assessment, the ferry transportation, which the Armenian authorities are talking about, cannot replace cargo transportation through the Upper Lars checkpoint because ferries will never transport perishable goods, including fruits, as it can take a lot of time to transport.

As for the "dry port," which the Armenian authorities are also talking about, our interlocutor noted that it must have a stable and uninterrupted connection with the regular port. Otherwise, it is not a "dry port," but just a terminal.

"With which port will that connection be ensured? Have any documents been signed? The managers of the Ports of Poti and Batumi [in Georgia] informed me that they have no idea what the talk is about," Gagik Aghajanyan concluded.

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