Page last updated at 00:30 GMT, Sunday, 18 May 2008 01:30 UK

Georgia condemns Russian actions

Footage from the Georgian spy plane

Georgia has shown the BBC footage which it says proves Russian troops are deploying heavy military hardware in the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

An interior ministry official in Tbilisi said the video footage was from an unmanned Georgian spy plane.

He said it proved the Russians were a fighting force, not just peacekeepers. Moscow strongly denies the claim.

Tensions remain high between Moscow and Tbilisi over Abkhazia and another breakaway region, South Ossetia.

The two territories are controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Last month, Russia moved hundreds of paratroopers into Abkhazia, insisting they were just peacekeepers.

Drone wars

The footage was shown to the BBC by Georgian interior ministry official Shota Utiashvili.

BBC map

He also said it was essential for Georgia to continue send its spy planes, or drones, for intelligence gathering missions in Abkhazia to assess the potential risk.

"We think that Georgia, especially at a time when we have confirmed reports of massive military deployments from the Russians, and ultimatums presented again by the Russians and the Abkhaz, we have the right to know what's going on there, to be ready," Mr Utiashvili said.

The Abkhaz separatists say they have shot down seven Georgian drones in recent months, although Tbilisi insists that only one of the planes has been downed.

Last month, Georgia accused Russia of shooting down its drone - a claim denied by the Kremlin.

Georgia's pro-Western authorities believe that Russia is fuelling the separatist conflict to maintain its influence in Abkhazia and damage Georgian hopes of joining Nato, the BBC's Matthew Collin in Tbilisi says.

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