Page last updated at 22:00 GMT, Sunday, 4 May 2008 23:00 UK

Rebels 'hit two Georgian drones'

BBC map

Separatist forces in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia say they have shot down two unmanned Georgian spy planes.

The alleged attacks come two weeks after a similar incident.

A spokesman for Georgia's interior ministry "categorically" denied that any planes were lost on Sunday as none had been flying in the region.

Russia's support for Abkhazia and another region, South Ossetia, has stoked tensions with Georgia.

Russian and UN peacekeepers have been deployed in both regions since the early 1990s, when they broke free from Georgian control as the Soviet Union disintegrated.

Russia began reinforcing its troops in Abkhazia last month, saying it was acting in line with an existing peace accord and accusing Georgia of preparing to invade Abkhazia.

Nato has accused Russia, in turn, of increasing tension with Georgia, whose government aspires to Nato membership.

'No losses'

Abkhaz officials said two Georgian spy drones entered their airspace 51 minutes apart, and were downed immediately by the territory's air defence forces.

Late on Sunday, a spokesman for the president of the unrecognised republic said fragments from one of the planes had been found.

"The wreckage of one of the unmanned reconnaissance aircraft shot down today has been found near the village of Rechkhi in Abkhazia's Tqvarcheli district," Ruslan Kishmaria told Russian news agency Interfax.

Georgian drone footage
Georgia says a Russian jet shot down a drone last month

Earlier, Mr Kishmariya said the presence of the drones was evidence that Georgia was preparing for military operations against Abkhazia.

Georgian interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told AFP news agency that no Georgian planes had been flying in the region.

"We categorically deny the loss of any Georgian planes," he said.

A statement from Russia's foreign ministry accused Georgia of escalating tension again.

"By resorting to escapades with pilotless spy planes and speeding up military preparations... the Tbilisi authorities have taken the path of deliberately inflaming tension in the region," the statement said.

Abkhazia first reported shooting down a Georgian drone on 18 March, when it showed off wreckage.

The downing of another drone over Abkhazia on 20 April provoked angry exchanges between Tbilisi and Moscow.

Russia said its presence had breached the 1994 peace accord which ended fighting in the region.

It reported that Abkhaz forces had shot down the plane, identified by Abkhazia as an Israeli-made Hermes 450.

Georgia, however, released footage showing what seemed to be a Russian MiG-29 jet shooting that drone down.

The video, apparently shot from the drone moments before impact, showed a jet launching a missile over what appeared to be the Black Sea. Georgia accused Russia of an act of "open aggression".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific