Thursday, August 9, 2007

Russia accuses Georgia over attackStory Highlights

Story Highlights
Russia's military chief denies reports of a missile attack against Georgia
Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky says Tbilisi concoted the incident to stoke tensions
Georgia said it has evidence that Russia released a missile in their country
Foreign Ministry says radar records show Russian Su-24 jet flew into Georgia

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) -- Russia's military chief on Thursday accused Georgia of fabricating a report of a Russian missile attack, as tensions heightened between Moscow and its small Westward-looking neighbor.

An investigator inspects the wreckage of what Georgian authorities claim to be an unexploded Russian missile.

Georgia said radar data proved Russian jets violated its airspace Monday and fired a missile aimed at a Georgian radar.
The missile, which did not explode, landed close to a village in the northwestern Gori region near Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia, which is patrolled by Russian peacekeepers.
Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky, the chief of Russia's military General Staff, said Wednesday that Georgia concocted the incident to foment tensions.
"I'm convinced that it was a provocation by Georgia... a provocation against the Russian peacekeepers and Russia as a whole," Baluyevsky said on a visit to China, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.
In Tbilisi, Levan Nikoleishvili, Georgia's first deputy defense minister, told The Associated Press that Baluyevsky's statement was "sheer nonsense."
Tbilisi has accused Moscow of trying to destabilize the country and of backing separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two regions that broke away from Georgia during wars in the 1990s.
President Mikhail Saakashvili, whose efforts to integrate into the West and join NATO have irked Moscow, has vowed to return the regions to central government control.
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Georgia: 'Proof' of missile attack
Georgia's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday that records from radars compatible with NATO standards showed that a Russian Su-24 jet had flown from Russia into Georgia and launched a missile.
Investigators identified the weapon as a Russian-made Raduga Kh-58 missile, designed to hit radars, the ministry said. The missile, code-named AS-11 by NATO, carried a 300-pound warhead.
Lt. Gen. Igor Khvorov, chief of staff for the Russian air force staff, reaffirmed Thursday that the Russian aircraft had not conducted the raid. "It's a political invention," he said at a news conference.
Georgian officials said the nation has no Su-24 jets or missiles of that type.
The Russian missile missed its target because the Georgian military switched off the radar after it had detected the intrusion and the missile's launch, Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Zurab Pochkua said Thursday on Rustavi-2 television.
Georgia's Foreign Ministry called the incident "undisguised aggression" and sought an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
The U.S. State Department on Wednesday condemned what it described as a "rocket attack" without naming a responsible party, and praised Georgia's "restraint in the face of this air attack."
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said its mission in Georgia had confirmed that Georgian airspace was violated, but could not say how many and what kind of aircraft were involved. The mission also said it could not identify the missile.
Relations between Russia and Georgia have been strained since Saakashvili was elected president in early 2004 and made clear his intentions to move the former Soviet republic closer to the West.
Georgia has accused Russia of backing separatists; Moscow, in turn, has accused Tbilisi of fomenting tensions in the rebel provinces. Georgia has repeatedly accused Russia of violating its airspace -- claims Russia denied.
Earlier this year, Georgia said Russian helicopters fired on its territory in the Kodori Gorge, a volatile area on the fringes of Abkhazia. The two nations exchanged similarly fraught accusations at the time, but a subsequent report by the U.N. observer mission in Georgia last month said it was not clear who had fired at the Georgian territory

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