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Russia Denies Withholding Evidence From UN Probe

(RFE/RL) July 27, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Georgia has accused Russia of withholding key information from a UN investigation into an attack on Kodori Gorge in March and is calling for the probe to be reopened, RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported.

The Tbilisi-controlled upper Kodori Gorge, located in the breakaway region of Abkhazia, was shelled on March 11 in an attack Georgia blames on Russian helicopters and artillery from separatist-controlled territory.

Implied Russian Involvement

A UN report issued on July 12 suggested, but did not explicitly state, that Russia could have been involved in the attack.

"The Russians withheld some investigative information which was very crucial for a successful investigative report," Georgian UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania said on July 26 after a closed-door meeting of the UN Security Council.

Alasania called the attack an "act of war against Georgia."

Speaking to reporters in Tbilisi, Georgian Minister for Conflict Resolution Davit Bakradze called for the investigation to be reopened.

"We demand the investigation be continued, we demand the investigation be finalized, and we demand answers to all the outstanding questions," quoted him as saying.

Bakradze added that if Russia does not become more cooperative, then Georgia would petition the UN to have them removed from the Friends Group -- a group of mediators working under UN auspices as mediators between Georgia and Abkhazia.

A spokeswoman for Russia's UN mission, Maria Zakharova, said Russia cooperated fully with a UN investigation.

UN Report On Abkhazia Criticized

Georgian officials, meanwhile, have criticized a separate report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the situation in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia.

The report, which was made public on July 23, called on Georgia and Abkhazia to take steps to avoid the resumption of hostilities.

It also called on Georgia to remove a youth camp located near the conflict zone.

In a July 26 telephone interview with RFE/RL's Georgian Service, Abkhazia's Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said the report's criticisms of Georgia show that the Abkhaz side is fulfilling its commitments.

Bakradze dismissed this claim in a later interview with the service. Bakradze also criticized the report, saying it diverts attention from the lack of dialogue on Abkhazia's final status and a lack of progress on the return of refugees.