Armenia’s four competitors at the Sochi Winter Olympics didn’t come close to winning a medal. But a joke making the rounds in Yerevan goes that since the athletes made it into Russia, they should at least stick around and look for work.
Russia has long been a magnet for Armenian migrant laborers. But under new Russian regulations that came into force on January 1, Armenians and other foreigners who lack long-term visas can stay in Russia for only three months before they must leave the country for another 90 days. They must remain in their home country for the same amount of time. Violators are subject to a three-year ban on entering Russia; those who have already been deported face a five-year ban.
Many Armenians expected they would be exempt from the new Russian rules, given Yerevan’s decision last September to join a Moscow-led Customs Union along with Belarus and Kazakhstan. But it hasn’t worked out that way, and many are distraught.
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Marianna Grigoryan is a freelance reporter in Yerevan and the editor of MediaLab.am.