Page last updated at 20:26 GMT, Thursday, 10 July 2008 21:26 UK

Georgia recalls Moscow ambassador

A Russian fighter jet. File photo
Russia and Georgia have traded accusations of airspace violation

Georgia is to recall its ambassador from Russia after Moscow admitted its fighter jets had entered Georgian airspace earlier this week.

Tbilisi accused Moscow of committing a "very grave act of aggression".

Moscow said its jets were above Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia to "cool hot heads in Tbilisi".

Tension has been rising over South Ossetia and another Georgian breakaway region, Abkhazia. Moscow supports separatist administrations in both.

The Kremlin accuses Georgia's pro-Western government of pushing the two separatist regions to the brink of armed conflict in its attempts to return them under Tbilisi's control.

Georgia blames Russia for fuelling the situation in order to create instability and undermine Tbilisi's efforts to join Nato.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a visit to Tbilisi on Thursday, warned Russia against stoking up tension in the region.

'Preventing bloodshed'

"We will take some aggressive diplomatic steps in order to respond adequately to Russia's actions," Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said.

BBC map showing Georgia and its breakaway regions

"One such step is that from today [Thursday], we are recalling our ambassador in Russia for consultations," the minister said.

Ms Tkeshelashvili's comments came shortly after Russia admitted its planes flew over South Ossetia on Tuesday night.

The Russian foreign ministry said it had ordered the flights because it believed the Georgian government was preparing to attack the rebel region.

"The need arose to take urgent and active measures to prevent bloodshed and keep the situation within peaceful bounds," a Russian foreign ministry statement said.

"To clarify the situation, aircraft of the Russian air force carried out a brief flight over the territory of South Ossetia," it added.

"As subsequent events showed, this step allowed [us] to cool hot heads in Tbilisi and prevent events developing along military lines," the statement said.

Moscow has previously denied Georgian accusations of over flights.

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