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Georgian government revokes controversial Racha hunting license

28 November 2023
Members Saving Rioni Valley movement holding up a banner that reads 'Racha is not for sale' in against the sale of Racha forests to a private company. Shota Kincha/OC Media.

On Tuesday, Georgia’s National Environment Agency revoked a license granting a private company the right to establish a hunting farm in a 1,000 square kilometre area of forests in Racha.

The land was auctioned off to HG Capra Caucasica, a limited liability company owned by Davit Khidasheli, in April 2022. 

Khidasheli is a Russia-based businessman with reported ties to Bidzina Ivanishvili, the billionaire founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party.

Georgia’s Environment Agency announced that it was revoking the license due to HG Capra Caucasica’s ‘non-fulfilment-of-license obligations’.

Georgian activists have opposed the lease over the forest in the Racha-Lechkumi and Kvemo Svaneti regions, citing Khidasheli’s ties to Russian oligarchs such as Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

Saving Rioni Valley, a grassroots environmental movement, has led several protests against the lease since late September, starting in Racha and then moving their protests to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Agriculture in Tbilisi in mid-November.

When Saving Rioni Valley moved to Tbilisi to protest, the police arrested 11 of their members for attempting to set up a tent. While all activists were later released, they are awaiting trial on charges of petty hooliganism and disobeying police orders.

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[Read more: Eleven detained at Racha forest protest in Tbilisi]

At around the same time, Khidasheli announced that he was selling both his company, HG Capra Caucasica, and the license because of ‘misunderstandings created by the state’.

Read in Armenian on CivilNet.