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Georgia, Russia Ratchet Up Missile Accusations

Deputy Defense Minister Kutelia said the latest violation was one of nine (file photo) (InterPressNews) August 23, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Georgia and Russia continue to trade accusations over Tbilisi's claims that planes flying from Russia violated Georgian airspace twice this month alone.

Over the past three months, Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Batu Kutelia alleged on August 22, nine such violations have been recorded.

Kutelia was addressing reporters in Tbilisi to announce the latest alleged incursion, which he said took place the previous evening.

The latest charges, which led the Georgian Foreign Ministry to send a formal note of protest to Moscow, come in the wake of Georgian claims that earlier this month a jet traveling from Russia dropped a missile on a village just 65 kilometers from the Georgian capital.

Tbilisi Denounces 'Aggression'

Georgia's ambassador to the UN, Irakli Alasania, on August 22 accused Russia of trying to "intimidate Georgia."

Speaking at a news conference in New York, Alasania called on the world to prevent what he called "acts of aggression" by Russia.

"Georgia requests that the international community use all the means at its disposal to get to the bottom of this matter and prevent the repetition of any similar acts of aggression in the future," he said. "Such actions continue [to be a] threat to international order, to peace and security, by undermining fundamental democratic values and endangering the primacy of international law."

Russia has denied that its planes crossed into Georgian airspace either on August 6 or on August 21, and has accused Georgia of fabricating the incidents for political purposes.

Russia's armed forces chief of staff, General Yury Baluyevsky, today rejected Tbilisi's allegations as "hallucinations."

Regarding the first alleged incursion this month, two separate teams of international experts have concluded that a jet illegally entered Georgian airspace from Russia on August 6 and dropped a missile.

Their conclusions were based in part on radar data provided by Georgia. Moscow has cast doubt on the authenticity of that data.

Georgia Hopes For NATO Help

NATO countries on August 22 discussed plans to share radar data with Georgia.

Deputy Defense Minister Kutelia told RFE/RL's Georgian Service that sharing radar data will help Tbilisi better document airspace violations.

"For physical security, this will not entail anything. What it will entail is that the 26 NATO members, as well as the thee members of MAP [Membership Action Program] will have the same airspace picture as we see today," he said.

"It will become possible to control Georgia's airspace in a normal, objective way, and additional investigations and expert groups will no longer be necessary in order to prove violations of Georgia's sovereign airspace," Kutelia concluded.

The military alliance agreed in 2003 to share radar data with Georgia, Albania, Finland, Macedonia, and Ukraine, but technical issues still need to be resolved.

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.


RFE/RL's English-language coverage of Georgia and Russia.