YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—Russian customs and security officials frequently collect illegal payments from Armenian businesses exporting goods to Russia, Armenian Economy Minister Artsvik Minasian claimed on Friday.
Minasian said that the Russian and Armenian governments should jointly address “illegal actions that are often taken against Armenian carriers and citizens” at Russian border checkpoints.
“As regards such practices or manifestations at some Russian sections, I believe that there has to be a systemic solution,” Minasian told reporters. “We need to create a system of joint work with Russian authorities.”
The minister did not elaborate on the alleged violations of a free trade regime between the two countries, which was further simplified after Armenia joined the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) 18 months ago.
Despite Minasian’s criticism, the authorities in Yerevan insist that Armenia’s membership in the EEU is already bearing fruit. According to Armenian government data, Armenian exports to Russia — most of them alcoholic beverages and agricultural products — doubled in the first five months of this year.
The Russian Ministry of Transport said on Friday that Russia’s imports of Armenian products have actually more than tripled since the beginning of this year. It was not clear whether the ministry referred to the physical volume of commercial cargo shipments from Armenia or their monetary value.
The ministry reported the sharp rise in a statement on a session of a Russian-Armenian commission economic cooperation held in Saint Petersburg earlier in the day. The intergovernmental body is co-headed by Armenian Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian and Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov.
Sokolov praised the increased Russian-Armenian trade when he addressed the press after the meeting. “Russia has been and remains Armenia’s main trading partner,” he said.