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‘Russia Wants to Annex Abkhazia’ – Saakashvili
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 23 Apr.'08 / 20:50

Georgia will request Russia to hand over its radar data to a group of international experts, which will investigate the April 20 downing of a Georgian reconnaissance drone over breakaway Abkhazia.

Grigol Vashadze, the Georgian deputy foreign minister, told President Saakashvili at a session of National Security Council on April 23, that Tbilisi had already invited “experts from number of states, including from neutral states, and we have already received their consent.”

Georgia claims that Russia’s MIG-29 fighter jet took off from Gudauta military base in Abkhazia, shot down the Georgian drone and flew away into the Russian Federation on April 20.

“We will summon tomorrow Russia’s ambassador, Mr. Kovalenko, and we will request him to exchange our military radar data. So let’s hand over our radar data to international experts and let them assess them [radar data],” Vashadze told President Saakashvili in remarks, which was televised in the evening on April 23. He then added mockingly: “But I am sure their air radars were shut down because of no electricity” – meaning that Russians would refuse to hand over their air radar records under any pretext.

Davit Kezerashvili, the defense minister, who was also present at the meeting, continued then also mockingly: “Or they would say it was Sunday and [radar crew] were having a rest” – a reference to the Russian air force statement in which it said no Russian jet conducted any flight on Sunday, April 20, in the North Caucasus, because pilots had a rest.

President Saakashvili told the session that he had no doubt Russia’s purpose was to annex Abkhazia.

“Russia has declared it clearly: it no longer recognized Georgia’s sovereignty and jurisdiction over this territory [Abkhazia],” Saakashvili said. “They [Russia] have said that although they in general recognize Georgia’s territorial integrity, but they do not recognize our sovereignty over third of Georgia’s territory. Everything is already said by that. I know it very well that it is not in Russia’s interests to have formally independent enclaves on its territories in North Caucasus. Russia wants annexation of this territory and Russia’s all the recent moves indicate on that. I hope they realize that this is not only illegal, but also risky for Russia itself.”

"Taiwanization scenario in respect of Georgia is total craziness," he said. "What the MIG-29 was doing on Gudauta military base, which should be closed and what it was doing in our airspace?"

After initial denial that its drone was shot down, the Georgian authorities admitted the incident on April 21 and released a video footage transmitted by on-board camera showing twin-tail fighter jet approaching the drone and fire missile on it.

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