Several dozen villagers gathered near village Sulda of Akhalkalaki Municipality early morning yesterday, and blocked passage to cars and cargo vehicles heading to Turkey through the Kartsakhi border crossing point, just few kilometers from the area.
According to the Akhalkalaki-based Jnews, the rally was called by residents of nearby villages, following the reported theft of 65 cows belonging to herdsmen from Sagarejo District in Kakheti, who graze their cattle in pastures close to the state border.
One of the Sagarejo herdsmen has reportedly told Jnews that the thieves spoke Turkish, leading the local residents to believe that the cattle was raided to Turkey and prompting calls for tighter control of the Turkish-Georgian border.
The protesters cleared the road after talks with municipality officials and Enzel Mkoyan, majoritarian MP from Akhalkalaki and Ninotsminda electoral district, who travelled to the area shortly after the rally was commenced.
The police said it launched investigation under Article 179 (subpoint B of point 2) of the Criminal Code of Georgia, dealing with group theft and punishable with imprisonment from six to nine years. The Turkish side is involved in the investigation, according to the Interior Ministry.
This is not the first time residents of Akhalkalaki district, a predominantly ethnic Armenian-populated area in Georgia’s Samtskhe-Javakheti region, have complained of cattle theft by residents of neighboring Turkish villages. Jnews said one or two cattle raids a year is a routine happening in the area.