A Boeing 737-900ER from Tajikistan's airline Somon Air.

Russia resumes flights to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan

Regular direct flights from Russia to several countries including Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have officially resumed. Passengers will have to follow strict measures to minimise transmission of Covid-19.

A version of this article was originally published on Novastan’s French website on 31 March 2021.

Russia continues to gradually reopen its borders. Regular flights to the capitals of Tajikistan and Uzbekistan from Moscow have officially resumed from 1 April 2021, as the Russian government announced on 25 March.

This further Russia’s gradual reopening to Central Asia. Weekly flights to and from Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan officially resumed from 21 September 2020.  According to Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), during the pandemic airlines such as Tajikistan’s Somon Air have been operating charter flights to Russia instead of their regular service.

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The routes have been agreed on a reciprocal basis with the countries in question. Germany is also open to Russian travellers again, with flights between Frankfurt and Saint Petersburg three times a week and between Frankfurt and Moscow five times a week. In addition, the Russian government announced one flight a week from Russian international airports to the United Arab Emirates and Azerbaijan.

This marks the end of the 16 March 2020 government decision to temporarily ban foreign citizens from entering Russia to restrict the spread of Covid-19.

Health measures still in order

This partial reopening of Russia does not, however, translate into a relaxation of measures against the spread of the coronavirus. Foreign citizens wishing to travel to Russia must obtain a negative PCR test no earlier than 72 hours before the flight. Russian citizens returning to Russia are required to take the test within 72 hours of arrival.

Read more: Tajikistan’s tourism industry collapses in the wake of COVID

These sanitary measures have been in place since 7 July 2020 following a resolution by Russia’s chief sanitary doctor. In addition, the Russian government advises against travel wherever possible.

Russian president Vladimir Putin expressed Russia’s willingness to reopen its borders at his 2020 end-of-year press conference. “As soon as the doctors allow it, the borders will be opened immediately,” he said.

Mutual dependence

Concretely, this decision could be crucial for Central Asian states, who were hard hit by the coronavirus crisis and the shutdown of air traffic. Above all, the reopening of airspace allows migrants from Central Asia to travel to Russia for work again.

Read more: More Russian passports, fewer labour migrants: Central Asian migration to Russia in 2020

The pandemic has had important economic consequences for both Russia and most Central Asian states. The number of migrants to Russia has halved, greatly reducing the budgets of certain states such as Tajikistan, where the share of migrant transfers is around 30% of gross domestic product (GDP).

As Radio Ozodi, the Tajik branch of RFE/RL, notes, remittances to Tajikistan from migrants in 2020 fell by 741 million dollars (630 million euros) in one year.

Léonard Dillies

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