Georgian spy plane shot down

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Map of Abkhazia

Officials in Georgia have alleged that a Russian fighter jet shot down a Georgian spy plane on Sunday. Colonel David Nairashvili of Georgia's air force told Associated Press that the spy plane recorded video of a Russian fighter before it was downed.

According to the foreign ministry of Russia, Abkhaz rebels shot down the Georgian spy plane with anti-aircraft weapons. The statement said that President Vladimir Putin expressed "bewilderment" that Georgian sent a spy plane into that area, which it said was in violation of a 1994 cease-fire agreement.

Georgia countered that the video, which they have released, shows a MiG-29, which is not in the arsenal of the Abkhaz separatists. They say that it must, then, be Russian and violating Georgian airspace. Abkhazia is still part of Georgia.

"It's a Russian aircraft. Georgia does not possess it, nor do Abkhaz separatists," Nairashvili said. "It's absolutely illegal for a Russian MiG-29 to be there."

In the statement by the foreign ministry of Russia, it said that the aircraft "was shot down by Abkhaz anti-aircraft weapons." A statement was also released by a general from the Russian air force. He claimed that "the Russian air force has nothing to do with this. That's not our business."

The president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, said that he spoke with Vladimir Putin about the incident on Monday, asking him to stop Russian backing of separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Garry Kupalba, the deputy defence minister of Abkhazia disputed Georgia's account. He said the spy plane was shot down by one of its L-39 jets, of which the Abkhazian military has several. He further said that Georgia was violating United Nations resolutions regarding Abkhazia by sending in the spy plane which he identified as a Hermes 450 drone.

However, military experts consulted by The New York Times and Associated Press, both say that the video shows a distinct twin-tail jet that closely resembles a MiG-29, though the markings could not be read. The L-39 has a single tail.


Wikipedia Learn more about Abkhazia and Georgian-Abkhazian conflict on Wikipedia.