Georgia has about 40 Drones – Saakashvili
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 22 Apr.'08 / 12:47

Georgia has about 40 reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), which it purchased from Israel and distributed among its police and military forces, President Saakashvili told the New York Times.

Georgia has blamed a Russian fighter jet, a MIG-29, for downing its unmanned spy plane on April 20 over Abkhazia and has released video footage transmitted from the drone’s on-board camera showing a twin-tail jet firing a missile at the drone. Georgia has also claimed that the MIG-29 took off from the military base in Gudauta in breakaway Abkhazia and flew into the Russian Federation after shooting down the Georgian drone.

The Abkhaz side said that that examination of the debris revealed that it was a medium-sized UAV produced by an Israeli company, Elbit Systems, in 2006. Sokhumi has claimed that similar type of drone was shot down in March as well. In March the Georgian side denied that. Initially Tbilisi was also denying that its drone was shot down on April 20, but later retracted its initial denial.

The New York Times reported quoting Georgian officials that they were fortunate to capture the fighter plane on camera, and had done so only because a first missile fired by the plane missed the drone, which has a small engine that they said made it a difficult target for a heat-seeking missile. The pilot apparently decided to approach closer for a second shot, officials said, and flew near enough for the plane to be filmed by the drone before it was destroyed.

Saakashvili also told the New York Times that he had talked with President Putin on the phone on April 21 for about 40 minutes. Saakashvili said that Putin had neither confirmed nor denied the attack, and that the two presidents had disagreed sharply about the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

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