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Georgia: Russian Planes Reportedly Attack Pankisi Gorge

Tbilisi, 23 August 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze said that four warplanes believed to be Russian attacked three locations in the Pankisi Gorge early today. Tevzadze said the attack lasted about 40 minutes and there were no casualties reported. Witnesses said at least one person was killed, but the report could not be immedicately confirmed.

A spokesman for Georgia's border guards said that the planes entered Georgian airspace and attacked the Kakhetinsk region of the Pankisi Gorge, which Russia believes is used as a rear base by Chechen rebels.

The Russian Defense Ministry today denied that its planes had entered Georgian airspace. Georgia has accused Russia of violating its airspace on five times in recent weeks.

Russia has rejected the accusations, but one attack was confirmed by the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe.