Is the Situation Normalizing?

Yesterday Russia declared that it would stop its military offensive into Georgia. According to Russian President Dimitri Medvedev, “the aggressor has been punished.” Meanwhile at a rally held in Tbilisi last night Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, with the presidents of Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine and Poland by his side, declared that his nation was a member of the "real Europe" according to CNN, whatever that is supposed to mean. French President Nikolas Sarkozy effectively brokered the ceasefire agreement. In compliance with the document, both Russian and Georgian military forces agree to retreat from their positions. Hopefully this marks the beginning of the end.

But what is the impact of this war, if it can be called that, on Armenia? I was concerned that goods, including foodstuffs and fuel, would not be entering Armenia from trade centers in Georgia for a while. However, yesterday RFE/RL reported on a news conference held by the Armenian Transport and Communications Minister, Gurgen Sargsian. The report read that:

Fuel and the vast majority of other commodities reach the country via the Georgian Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti. Russian warplanes have bombed Poti and other civilian and military targets across Georgia in recent days. According to some media reports, the air strikes disrupted Georgia’s rail-ferry services with Russia and Ukraine that process most of the goods shipped to and from Armenia.

Sargsian claimed, however, that both the ports and the ferry links have remained operational since last Friday’s outbreak of vicious fighting in South Ossetia that spilled over into Georgia proper. “We have no information about any problems,” he told a news conference. “Everything is normal. Georgian roads are not dangerous, and the railway [leading to Armenia] is absolutely safe.”

According to Sargsian, 60 rail cars laden with wheat and other basic goods rolled into Armenia overnight and 18 others are on the way. “Cargo shipments by rail are being carried out as planned,” the minister said. “The railway did not stop for a single minute. It has continued to operate, carrying both people and cargos.”

Nevertheless, the Armenian Ambassador to Georgia, Hrach Silvanian, had something different to say:
... “As a result of the bomb raids, there have arisen difficulties in the work of the port of Poti, which have reflected negatively on cargo shipments,” he said in written answers to questions from RFE/RL.

Silvanian also reported “certain disruptions” in Batumi partly related to concerns about the safety of freight transportation. The Armenian embassy in Tbilisi is taking “all possible steps to overcome the mentioned obstacles,” he said.

Okay, so who's right? Is the Armenian government simply making up stories to prevent a panic (not that people seem to be panicking really)? Or is there really a problem with imports arriving at Armenian destinations? How were people going to eat bread if flour supplies were to run out? What about being able to get any available food to market with a significant shortage of fuel? Yesterday I decided to fill some more gasoline in my tank, about 12 liters worth, just in case I would not be able to find any more by the weekend. I just happened to have stumbled upon a Flash station not far from my home, which didn't seem to have been rationing fuel. Sure enough, the same article reported:

That Russia’s military operations in Georgia have seriously complicated Armenia’s transport communication with the rest of the world was also asserted by the country’s largest fuel importer, Flash. “There were disruptions in our supplies for the past four or five days as no cargos were transported from Georgia,” Mushegh Elchian, the company’s deputy director, told RFE/RL.

But Elchian said the situation seems to be improving now. “We received ten rail cars of petrol overnight, while other companies imported large quantities of diesel fuel. But still we have a fairly large volume of fuel stocked in the Batumi terminal.”

Well I for one was getting a bit worried although my work associates believed that the conflict was going to calm down and all was going to be well. They seem to have been right, thank God. At least for now, anyway.


julie dermansky said…
so glad to see this post-
i was hoping i could learn about the situation from you.
i'm shooting like crazy these days in New Olreans where the National Guard are still patrolling the streets of New Olreans. I will read you last posts this afternoon.

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