By Ruzanna Stepanian
The commander of Russian border guards stationed in Armenia warned on Friday that his forces will shoot and kill anyone who tries to illegally transport cattle into neighboring Turkey, a practice which he said has been more frequent of late.
General Aleksandr Bondarev said the border guards are also fortifying key sections of the Turkish-Armenian border as part of the anti-smuggling effort.
The animals are thought to be stolen from residents of villages in the northwestern Shirak region and smuggled to Turkey by Armenian criminal groups through the Arax river that separates the two estranged countries. Bondarev revealed that the number of such incidents has increased in recent months but could not give any figures.
“We are digging ditches against cows, building different ramparts and doing other things,” he told a news conference. “I have already given orders to lay mines wherever it is possible and shoot, wherever it is necessary, at people trying to cross the border at night. They have nothing to do there.”
“I want to warn everyone that the border guards will take the most serious measures because I don’t want to hear allegations that we let somebody through or didn’t shoot him on time. Period,” he said.
The Russian border guards and Armenian law-enforcement agencies have not reported any cases of individuals being caught red-handed while trying to steal cattle and ship it to Turkey. Bondarev said only that some of his servicemen have been censured in connection with the practice. He did not elaborate though.
The Russian border guard posts, which are partly manned by Armenian conscripts, are deployed along Armenia’s borders with Iran and Turkey. According to Bondarev, the situation the frontier remains under tight protection, with only two individuals, citizens of Turkey, arrested this year while trying to illegally cross it.
“It is very good that the main problem on the Turkish-Armenian border is cattle smuggling,” stated the general.