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Russian Officer Says Georgia Sent Jets Over South Ossetia

Russian peacekeepers guard South Ossetia's border
MOSCOW -- A senior Russian officer has accused Georgia of sending military jets into the troubled breakaway province of South Ossetia, but Tbilisi swiftly denied the allegation.

Interfax news agency quoted the assistant commander of Russia's peacekeepers in South Ossetia as saying that military jets made eight overflights over the region after taking off from the Georgian city of Gori.

South Ossetia broke away from Georgian control in the early 1990s and a series of weekend clashes in the region, in which several people died, have fuelled fears of a new conflict.

"The appearance of warplanes in the conflict zone is a rude violation" of the existing agreements, Vladimir Ivanov told Interfax.

Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili denied the allegation.

"That's not true. It's another in a series of lies. The separatists together with the Russian peacekeepers are trying to create an alternative reality," he told Reuters.

On August 5, Georgia denied it was preparing for war in South Ossetia following the weekend clashes, and Russia said it would not be indifferent if there was further violence on its border.

South Ossetia, like another breakaway Georgian region, Abkhazia, enjoys financial and political support from Moscow and the vast majority of locals have Russian citizenship.