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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 September 2006, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Georgia army helicopter fired on
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A Georgian military helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing after being shot at over the breakaway South Ossetia region, officials say.

The aircraft was carrying the defence minister and deputy chief of staff.

Earlier South Ossetia officials had said the helicopter was shot down after violating the region's airspace.

South Ossetia has run its own affairs with Russian support since the war of the 1990s and has resisted moves by the Tbilisi government to rein it in.

Correspondents say tensions over South Ossetia have grown in recent months, with Russia accusing Georgia of inflaming the situation by calling for the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping troops.

'Plunging'

The government said the aircraft was damaged and but managed a safe emergency landing in Georgian-controlled territory.

For 10 to 15 minutes, we were actually plunging... But the experience of the pilot saved the helicopter
Irakli Okruashvili
Georgian Defence Minister

"No-one died," Paata Bedianishvili, commander of the Georgian battalion in the joint peacekeeping force in the area, told Georgian TV.

Defence Minister Irakli Okruashvili said the Mi-8 helicopter had come under fire during a flight to western Georgia.

"For 10 to 15 minutes, we were actually plunging," he said.

"But the experience of the pilot saved the helicopter."

Earlier, South Ossetian government spokeswoman Irina Gagloyeva said the helicopter had been shot down after ignoring repeated requests to change course or land.

She said the incident was the latest in a series of incursions.




SEE ALSO
Regions and territories: South Ossetia
26 Jul 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Georgia
30 Jul 06 |  Country profiles



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