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Lars open – Armenians in triumph2010-03-02 13:42
Welcome the long-awaited opening of Kazbegi-Upper Lars checkpoint on Russian-Georgian border giving no advantage to either Georgia or Russia. There will be no visa issuance for Georgians and Russians though the risk of hostile elements penetrating both countries increases. Only Armenia is content calculating profits from accelerated cargo shipments to Russia and back.
Georgian border guards unsealed their Kazbegi checkpoint as early as at 7 am with no truck coming to Georgia from the side of Russia till almost lunchtime making Georgian officials get preoccupied over Russia's alleged refusal to open Upper Lars.
Russia too was surprised to see the checkpoint so quiet. This is what Nikolay Rudin, interim head of Upper Lars checkpoint told impatient journalists: "Most probably the information has not reached people yet since visas are issued at Russian, Georgian and Swiss embassies (not directly on Russian-Georgian border since there have been no diplomatic relations between the states since August 2008)".
The modernized checkpoint has 14 traffic lines and state-of-the-art equipment for destruction of counterfeit goods. In summertime the checkpoint will be open till 10 pm (Moscow time), in winter the working time will be a few hours shorter with breaks in case of bad weather conditions.
Kazbegi - the Georgian part of the checkpoint - was reopened after repair works sponsored by the US with an eye to rapid settlement of Russian-Georgian relations last year.
However now the border opening hardly means reconciliation. Crossing the checkpoint is a problem for both Georgians and Russians. Only CIS citizens can use Upper Lars-Kazbegi quite easily due to visa-free regime with Georgia and Russia.
According to Alexander Soloda, spokesman of border department with Russian Federal Security Service in North Ossetia the border will be "transparent" for South Ossetian and Abkhaz citizens. However the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has already refuted this information. Deputy FM Nino Kalandadze specified that the checkpoint would be opened only for the citizens "whose documents will comply with Georgian law".
On the whole the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is positive about today's event. This is the first positive precedent when both sides reckon with the interests of Armenia, the third side". - Kalandadze remarked.
Meanwhile Georgian opposition used this pretext to criticize the government. Georgy Gugava of the Labor Party calls it high treason. It should be remarked that his party has long been accusing Mikheil Saakashvili of secret work for the benefit of Russia.