Drivers in panic - fuel is running out and cargo may spoil on this the fourth day of the border crisis
The Upper Lars border crossing between Georgia and Russia is severely congested, with rows of trucks spanning kilometres. The drivers say there are more than a thousand waiting at the border, almost all of them from Armenia. The trucks, many of which are loaded with agricultural produce, have been unable to cross the checkpoint for four days and counting.
Between 100 and 120 trucks had accumulated at the Upper Lars checkpoint by midday. Most of the congestion is in the direction of Russia though movement is difficult in both directions. Uppers Lars is over capacity according to the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technologies of Armenia.
They recognize the severity of the problem, and suggest that the only solution is to open alternative routes through Abkhazia and South Ossetia:
“The only long-term solution is to open an alternative route; negotiations are being conducted with both the Georgian and Russian sides,” they stated.
The capacity of the Upper Lars border post is limited by natural features and road conditions. It usually allows up to 80 trucks, 200 cars and 40 buses through. About four thousand individuals can cross the border per day.
However, over the past few days, the daily flow of freight transport has reached 200 vehicles and 10 thousand people. The truck pileup is due to the fact that priority is given to cars.
Meanwhile, businessmen from Armenia talk about significant financial losses. One of them, Mikhail Baghdasaryan, says that a truck loaded with his apricots could not cross the checkpoint for three days already. He has two more loaded trucks in Yerevan:
“We don’t exactly know what the cause of this traffic jam is. The Georgians blame the Russians and vice versa. Now we do not even dare send the other two trucks from Yerevan because they too may end up stranded for days. At least where they are now the refrigerators work and there are no problems with fuel.”
The truck owner is afraid that the apricots could spoil as the refrigerators run on fuel, and fuel is running out. Mikhail says that he paid 50 thousand rubles (about USD 800) for transportation, of which more than half was spent on fuel.
Jamnews spoke to a driver of one of the stranded trucks, who spoke of thousands of other stuck vehicles:
“The situation is very sad. It’s been two days since they have blocked the road and they won’t let me pass. The trucks are loaded and standing. More than a thousand of them. Diesel is running out, and we cannot go to refuel. The situation is simply terrible. Water is running out and we are in a panic.”
It’s harvest season in Armenia, with some produce being exported. Kilometre-long lines approaching Upper Lars is an annual occurance. Additionally, the road is often closed due to landslides.
Upper Lars is the main overland road used for exports from Armenia to Russia.