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Georgian Official Says Kodori Attack Came From Russia

(RFE/RL) March 14, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Nikoloz Rurua, the deputy chairman of the Georgian parliament's Committee for Defense and Security, says helicopters that attacked the Kodori Gorge came from Russian territory, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported.

Georgia says Russian helicopters fired on the gorge on March 11, which Russia denies. A multinational commission, including the United Nations, the Georgian government, Abkhazia's separatist government, and peacekeepers from the Commonwealth of Independent States, is investigating the incident.

"Three helicopters, preliminarily identified as Mi-24 attack gunships, flew [into the Kodori Gorge] from Russian territory or, to be precise, from the territory of Kabardino-Balkaria," Rurua said. "They made a circle above the villages of Upper Abkhazia, and as they were making a second circle they dropped about 20 unguided rockets, or so-called NURS [Russian-made unguided] rockets."

Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Eka Sguladze made similar allegations in remarks today to foreign diplomats.

Abkhaz Dispute

Kodori Gorge, which Georgia calls Upper Abkhazia, is the only part of the Abkhazia region that is controlled by Georgia.

In a telephone interview with RFE/RL, Malkhaz Akishbaya, the head of the pro-Tbilisi Abkhazia government in exile, said local officials are repairing damage from the attack.

"Already on the next day after the attack the [damaged] school was restored and [the Kodori Gorge] returned to normal life," Akishbaya said. "The only demand of the local population is that the [Georgian government's investigating] commission investigate everything objectively and thoroughly -- which it is already doing -- and that [the Georgian government] make every effort to prevent such bombings in the future."

The Abkhaz government in exile is located in the village of Chkhalta in the Kodori Gorge.

Akishbaya said Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili toured Chkhalta today and assured residents they would be protected.

(with material from ITAR-TASS)

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