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Tbilisi Denies Abkhaz Shot Down its Spy Plane
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 20 Apr.'08 / 17:01

Although officials in Tbilisi have confirmed an incident in Gali district involving, as they put it, “explosion,” the Georgian Ministry of Defense has denied that its unmanned spy plane was shot down.

According to breakaway region’s deputy defense minister, Gari Kupalba, the Georgian unmanned spy plane was shot down by the Abkhaz air defense when it was conducting “a reconnaissance flight over Ochamchire and Gali district” at 6,000-meter altitude at about 10am local time on April 20.

The Georgian Defense Ministry’s press office, however, denied that as "misinformation" and said that its planes conducted no flights at all in the direction of breakaway Abkhazia.

Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration, said that the Abkhaz side had no “technical capability” to shot down unmanned planes.

“We have information that there was an explosion in the Gali district. There are eyewitnesses who say that they’ve seen aircrafts. We, however, are not able to visit the site and study what has exploded,” he told Tbilisi-based Mze TV station. “The Abkhaz side said that they had shot down our [the Georgian] aircraft. But I want to tell you that the Abkhaz side has no technical capability to shot down unmanned aircrafts. I think this is a continuation of attempts to stage military provocation, what we are observing for recent two days; this in turn is a continuation of Russia’s decision [to establish official links with breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia].”

A similar incident was reported on March 18 by the Abkhaz side, when it said that Georgia’s medium-size unmanned spy plane, produced by Israel’s Elbit Systems, was shot down over Gali district. Wreckage of the downed plane was demonstrated to journalists in Sokhumi. The Georgian side, however, was denying that its plane was downed.

Meanwhile, Sergey Shamba, the breakaway region’s foreign minister denied on April 20 the Georgian side’s allegations that Sokhumi was deploying troops in Gali and lower part of Kodori Gorge. According to Apsnipress, Shamba also said that the UN observer mission told the Abkhaz side that the mission had not observed concentration of any additional Georgian forces at the Abkhaz border.

“According to UN mission information number of Georgian troops was not increased in the upper Kodori Gorge as well,” Shamba said and added that according to UN mission the same number of Georgian troops, which earlier was sent to upper Kodori Gorge, left the gorge on April 19, which was a sign of rotation. Earlier the Abkhaz side accused Tbilisi of deploying additional troops in Zugdidi – the Georgian side of the administrative border with Abkhazia and in upper Kodori Gorge, which Tbilisi denied.

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