Armenian protesters on hunger strike, demand flights with Russia be restored
In Armenia, 20 participants of a demonstration called “I want to go to Russia” have gone on hunger strike. For several months they have been demanding the resumption of regular flights with Russia.
Many of them came home on business before the announcement of the state of emergency due to the coronavirus and still cannot return to Russia, where they have work, and where some have a family.
The Armenian authorities have responded all this time that they are negotiating with the Russian side, which has so far refused to resume regular flights.
On the morning of September 23, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met with protesters.
However, the meeting with the head of government did not produce any results; the hunger strike will continue until the air borders are opened.
Meanwhile, the Russian government announced yesterday that it is opening its borders to South Korea and all member countries of the Eurasian Economic Union, except Armenia.
Despite the fact that Armenia has been a member of the EAEU for five years, which operates under the leadership of Russia. The union also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
“I want to go to Russia”
A group of Armenian citizens who demand permission to leave for Russia have created a Facebook group called “I want to go to Russia”.
In the afternoon of September 22, a message appeared in the group that a hunger strike would be declared.
Starting 22:00 on September 22, 20 participants of the group went on a hunger strike and stayed overnight at the government building. Among them are women.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan received the protesters on the morning of September 23.
According to one of them, the head of government explained that the situation is difficult due to the rate of spread of the coronavirus. The head of government promised to discuss the issue at a meeting of the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council to be held on October 8 in Yerevan.
“However, we said that we cannot wait so long,” Artur Voskanyan told reporters.
About the situation
Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan said that Armenia had already raised the issue of opening air borders in the EAEU:
“Our partners in the EAEU are ready to discuss this issue, and at least we will be able to achieve the establishment of uniform rules so that they act symmetrically for all EAEU countries. Even if in the near future it will not be possible to resume regular passenger transportation, then at least uniform standards will be established,” he said.
While protests are taking place in Armenia, the Russian government is gradually resuming air traffic. According to the latest order of the Russian government, since September 21, the country has opened air borders with all EAEU member states, except Armenia, and since September 27, air traffic will resume with South Korea.
“We do not know what caused this, but it is very offensive for us that negotiations on free movement can be held with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea, Belarus, and we, being a member of the EAEU, where we have the possibility of free movement under the agreement, are simply stuck on the spot,” said one of the protesters.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that on September 21 the program of ‘charter’ flights was completed, thanks to which it was possible to get from Armenia to Russia. The number of seats was strictly limited, therefore, in order to fly to a particular city in Russia, one had to register in advance on the ‘Gosuslug’ portal.
Now you can get from Armenia to Russia by using the services of Aeroflot, which operates charter flights. The whole problem is the high cost – a one-way ticket from Yerevan to Moscow costs a little more than 55 thousand rubles (about $ 690).
At this point, the same Aeroflot announced its intention to resume regular flights starting 25 October.
“The empire remains an empire”
Russia is using this issue as a lever of pressure on Armenia, stirring up public discontent against the government, political scientist Stepan Grigoryan believes:
“I argue that this is also due to the fact that the empire remains an empire, they understand that the more internal pressure that there is on the current authorities of Armenia, the easier it will be able to achieve what they want.
“This is an imperial policy – to constantly keep the current authorities under pressure and to get something out of it.”