Opposition politicians have criticized the authorities for a failure, as they put it, to defend the country from air attacks.
Georgia claims Russian SU-24 Fencer attack aircraft violated Georgian airspace on August 6 and fired an air-to-surface missile on an area near breakaway South Ossetia
“Why are we spending almost GEL 1 billion on defense while we are not even capable of preventing foreign aircraft from intruding into our airspace and bombing our territory,” Mamuka Katsitadze, a lawmaker from the opposition New Rights party said on August 7.
Georgia’s 2007 defense budget is GEL 955.3 million (USD 568.6 million). Russian and Ukrainian media sources reported recently that Georgia had purchased an Osa anti-aircraft system with missiles from Ukraine last year.
Russia has strongly refuted Tbilisi’s accusations, alleging instead that Georgia had staged the incident as a provocation to undermine peace talks on South Ossetia in the framework of the Moscow-dominated Joint Control Commission.
“Georgia should have downed this aircraft. Then everyone would have seen whose aircraft it was,” Zviad Dzidziguri, a lawmaker from the opposition Conservative party said.
Salome Zourabichvili, a former foreign minister and leader of opposition Georgia’s Way party, said it was unclear why the Interior Ministry and Minister Vano Merabishvili were in charge instead of the Ministry of Defense. Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili made the first official comments about the incident early on August 7. The Defense Ministry issued a short press release, which was almost identical to the one which was issued by the Interior Ministry earlier.
“Where is the defense minister [Davit Kezerashvili] in the midst of this crisis? Merabishvili has nothing to do with this situation,” Zourabichvili said. “We should know: if radars observed foreign aircraft, did our planes take off to counter them? Or maybe funding of the defense sector is just a waste of money?”
Shalva Natelashvili, the leader of the opposition Labor Party, stayed true to his unorthodox form in his comments on the incident. It was impossible, he said, not to rule out Georgian involvement in the attack.
“It really could have been the Russian airforce," he said. "Russia helped Saakashvili to take power in Georgia… And it also could have been Saakashvili's airforce. Russia and Saakashvili are both oppressors of the Georgian people.”