Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Russia drone shot down, Georgia says

Georgia says it has shot down a Russian reconnaissance drone over Georgian territory, just south of the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
The drone was brought down on Monday morning (local time) near the town of Gori, some 30km from the de facto border with South Ossetia, Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said.
"It was flying over the territory between the villages of Khurvaleti and Tsitelutani," he said.
"We believe it was patrolling the territory where the Baku-Supsa [oil] pipeline runs."
Mr Utiashvili said it was a short-range drone, and suggested it had been launched from Russian positions holding a "security zone" just a few kilometres north of Gori.
In Moscow, Russian army spokesman Vitaly Manushko denied that any such incident had occurred.
"There has been no crash or downing of any flying apparatus in the security zone," Manushko was quoted by RIA Novosti news agency as saying.
Defence ministry spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying: "This is the latest informational provocation from the Georgian side with the aim of destabilising the situation in the region."
The incident came as Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was due on Tuesday to appeal for international support in his country's conflict with Russia at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Georgian separatists have frequently claimed to have shot down Georgian reconnaissance drones, but claims by Georgia to have shot down Russian drones have been rare.
Russian forces continue to hold positions inside undisputed Georgian territory after they repelled a Georgian assault in early August to retake South Ossetia from pro-Moscow separatists.
Under the terms of a French-brokered pullback deal, Russian forces are due to withdraw from the 'security zones' adjacent to South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, by October 10. ABC-Reuters


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