A Georgian citizen was shot and wounded by Azerbaijani border guards on Friday near the state border between the two countries.
According to the Azerbaijani Border Service, Ramin Nizami Bashirov, a 26-year-old Georgian shepherd, was wounded by accident after border guards fired shots to ward off his dogs.
The incident happened on 6 December. According to the Azerbaijani Border Service, the shepherd was seen attempting to cross into Azerbaijani territory.
‘After the border police herded the flock of sheep from the area, ten dogs protecting the flock attacked them. Because their lives were endangered, and as a warning shot in the air had failed, the police had to use force against the dogs’, an official statement from the Azerbaijani Border Service said.
‘Later, the border police observed the shepherd lying on the ground near his horse. Upon approaching him, a wound on his head was discovered.’
According to the statement, the wounded man was hospitalised and is currently in a ‘satisfactory’ health condition. The statement further elaborated that the Border Service and the Military Prosecutor's Office of Azerbaijan were investigating the incident.
Speculation about the location
The incident became known in Georgia after the Main Channel reported that the shooting took place near the ‘Gareja desert’, in which the Davit Gareja Monastery Complex is located.
The Davit Gareja Monastery Complex, situated on the undelimited border between Georgia and Azerbaijan, has been the site of a territorial dispute between the two countries.
The dispute has grown heated in recent years; in a flare-up in April, Azerbaijan closed off access to the Udabno Monastery for several days following a visit to the site by Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili.
The head of the Gareja Monastery Complex, Archimandrit Ilarion, told Netgazeti on Wednesday that he hadn’t heard of such an incident happening nearby.
Despite a growing controversy about the location of the shooting, the Georgian Interior Ministry has not disclosed the exact location where it took place. Their only comments echoed that of the Azerbaijani Border Services, as they announced that the shepherd had been hospitalised and his health was ‘satisfactory’.
Georgia and Azerbaijan share a 480-kilometre long border, a third of which has not yet been delimited. Tensions near the border grew after the visit of Georgian President Salome Zurabishvili to the area on 20 April, where she met Georgian border guards and said that ‘the issue of border delimitation, which can no longer wait, should be resolved as soon as possible’.
On 24 April, local resident Zviad Ananiashvili posted on Facebook that it had been three days since Azerbaijani border guards had prevented pilgrims and other visitors from accessing the Udabno Monastery.
Udabno Monastery is a part of the 6th century Davit Gareja Monastery Complex. The complex includes hundreds of cells, churches, and chapels carved into a rockface.
On 25 April, Archimandrite Kirion told Georgian news agency InterPressNews that Azerbaijani border guards, who ‘were prohibiting clergy from reaching monasteries and churches’ were paving paths and setting up no-entry signs.
Azerbaijan restored access to Udabno Monastery by the end of the month, however a new row erupted shortly thereafter following an altercation between Georgian activists and Azerbaijani border guards.
[Read more about Davit Gareja on OC Media: Azerbaijan–Georgia row reignites over Davit Gareja monastery complex]