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Page last updated at 16:33 GMT, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 17:33 UK

Russia says rebels downed plane

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Georgia's air force commander shows footage that allegedly shows a Russian aircraft shooting down the Georgian plane

Russian authorities have said that Abkhaz rebels shot down an unmanned Georgian spy plane over the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

The Russian foreign ministry also said the flight breached a 1994 peace accord which ended fighting in the province.

Georgia insists a Russian plane shot down the drone on Sunday, calling it an act of "open aggression".

The country's defence ministry has released footage showing what seems to be a Russian MiG-29 shooting the drone.

The video, shot from the drone moments before impact, shows a jet launching a missile over what appears to be the Black Sea.

'Evidence'

"We have hard evidence proving that this is the Russian military aircraft shooting down Georgian UAV [Unmanned Aerial Vehicle]," Temu Iakobashvili, the Georgian minister in charge of the breakaway regions, told the Associated Press news agency.

Georgia map
But in a statement, Russia's foreign ministry said the drone was shot down by Abkhaz anti-aircraft weapons.

Abkhazia's separatist administration has said its own forces shot down the drone because it was violating Abkhaz airspace and breaching ceasefire agreements.

Tensions are high between Russia and Georgia over Russian support for Abkhazia and another breakaway Georgian region, South Ossetia.

International involvement

Russian and UN peacekeepers have been deployed in the two regions since the early 1990s, when violence erupted as they broke free from Georgian control.

Tbilisi believes Moscow is fuelling the separatist conflict in Abkhazia to maintain Russian influence in the region and to damage Georgia's hopes of joining Nato.

Georgia has requested a UN Security Council meeting on the issue, due to be held on Wednesday and attended by the country's foreign minister David Bakradze.

Georgia's deputy prime minister was in London on Tuesday for meetings with British officials to try and garner international support for his country's position in the row with Russia.

Last week, Georgia accused Russia of trying to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia by deciding to seek closer ties with them.


SEE ALSO
Georgia angered by Russian move
16 Apr 08 |  Europe
Country profile: Georgia
18 Apr 08 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Georgia
18 Apr 08 |  Country profiles

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