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Experts Confirm Jet Entered Georgian Airspace From Russia

Weapons experts examine the remains of the missile in Tbilisi (AFP) August 16, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A team of international experts has concluded that an aircraft entered Georgian airspace from Russia and dropped a missile on August 6.

The group of defense specialists from the United States, Sweden, Latvia, and Lithuania released their findings in Tbilisi late on August 15. They said the plane flew from Russian to Georgian airspace and back three times.

The experts described the missile as a Russian-designed KH-58, which is intended to take out radar systems. The team added that Georgia's air force "does not possess aircraft equipped with or able to launch" that missile.

A team of Russian investigators is due in Georgia today to conduct its own probe.

'Many Questions To Answer'

"These will be bilateral talks with Russia, which are taking place at our request," Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said today at a cabinet meeting in Tbilisi. "Today we will share the evidence we have with a high-ranking group of Russian experts and listen to what they have to say. They have many questions to answer."

Georgia's ambassador to the UN, Irakli Alasania, meanwhile, spoke with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon about the investigation's findings on August 15. The Georgian Foreign Ministry also said that Alasania urged Ban to call a special session of the UN Security Council to discuss the incident.

"At our request," Bezhuashvili said, "the Peacebuilding Commission will report to the UN Security Council in connection with this incident. The UN has the report from the international experts [issued on August 15]. It also has a report from the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe], which was issued on the second day [after the August 6 incident]. So I think the international community has all the facts and evidence, which is consistent with what we have been saying since the first day."

March Incident In Kodori

Georgia alleges that Russian aircraft violated its airspace on August 6 and dropped or jettisoned a missile, which did not explode. Georgian officials say the missile landed in the Gori region, near breakaway South Ossetia.

Russia denies the allegations.

Tbilisi is also pressing the Security Council to look into an incident in March in which Georgia alleges three Russian helicopters fired on the Kodori Gorge. The gorge, which Georgian officials call Upper Abkhazia, is the only part of the breakaway region still under Tbilisi's control.

Georgia accuses Russia of supporting pro-Moscow separatists in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Moscow And Tbilisi

Moscow And Tbilisi

Russian military hardware being withdrawn from a Russian base in Batumi, Georgia, in August 2005 (TASS)

WHAT COMES NEXT? Although Russia is unlikely to push an aggressive military response to the current tensions with Georgia, it has a number of economic, political, and diplomatic options at its disposal. Already on October 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin summoned his inner circle to weigh Moscow's options... (more)


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MORE: Coverage of the situation in Georgian from RFE/RL's Georgian Service and in Russian from RFE/RL's Russian Service.


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