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Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Tuesday, 23 September 2008 12:08 UK

Russian drone 'hit over Georgia'

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Georgia says its military has shot down a Russian reconnaissance drone that was flying over Georgian territory - a claim denied by Russia.

The unmanned plane was downed south of the de facto border with breakaway South Ossetia, the Georgian government said, though no evidence was provided.

Russia dismissed the claim as "another media provocation by Georgia".

Russia recognised the independence of South Ossetia after a short war broke out over the territory last month.

Russia has been withdrawing from Georgia proper under a ceasefire deal.

European Union monitors have been deploying in Georgia, to verify the Russian withdrawal and oversee the ceasefire. They are due to start patrolling on 1 October.

Georgia accused separatists from Abkhazia, a second breakaway region also recognised by Moscow, of breaching the ceasefire and shooting dead a Georgian police officer on Sunday.

Drone claims

Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said the drone was shot down on Monday near the town of Gori, some 30 km (20 miles) from South Ossetia.

"It was flying over the territory between the villages of Khurvaleti and Tsitelubani," Mr Utiashvili said.

"We believe it was patrolling the territory where the Baku-Supsa [oil] pipeline runs."

Reconnaissance flights played a role in escalating tensions between Georgia and Russia in the build-up to the war that broke out on 7 August.

In May Georgia released video pictures of what it said was a Russian jet shooting down a Georgian drone over Abkhazia.

Georgia said the jet had breached its territorial integrity - which was at that stage still recognised by Russia.

Russia denied its jet was involved, though UN monitors backed the Georgian claim.

Earlier in the month Abkhaz fighters said they had shot down two Georgian drones over Abkhazia - a claim denied by Georgia.

In July Russia admitted its jets had flown over South Ossetia.

The conflict in the region began when Georgia tried to retake South Ossetia by force after a series of lower-level clashes.

Russia launched a counter-attack and the Georgian troops were ejected from both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.




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