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Georgia: Tbilisi Accuses Russia Of 'Cold-Blooded Murder'

Tbilisi, 23 August 2002 (RFE/RL) -- Authorities in Georgia today accused Russian air forces of carrying out a cross-border bombing raid that left at least one villager dead and seven others wounded in the Pankisi Gorge region next to Russia's breakaway republic of Chechnya. Kakha Imnadze, a spokesman for President Eduard Shevardnadze, accused Russia of carrying out an "open aggression" against Georgia.

Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili described the incident as "cold-blooded murder."

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has flatly denied the Georgian claims.

Shevardnadze urged Russian authorities to take all necessary steps to help ease tensions between the two countries:

"Believe me, we've never wanted and even today we do not want this extreme tension in relations between Russia and Georgia. So we urge everyone in Russia, in the first place President (Vladimir) Putin, to stop this hunt on Georgian villages."

Russia accuses Georgia of harboring Chechen separatist fighters in Pankisi, a mountainous region that borders Chechnya to the south.

Georgia has refused Russian offers to conduct a joint security crackdown in the area, saying it has enough resources to cope with the problem on its own.