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13 May, 2008 13:57

Georgia’s breakaway republic loses faith in UN

Abkhazia’s trust in the United Nations will only be restored when it objectively examines alleged flights by unmanned Georgian spy planes over the breakaway republic, according to Abkhazia's Foreign Minister, Sergey Shamba, who is quoted by Russia’s RIA n

Abkhazia is promising to display the wreckage of one of two drones allegedly shot down on Monday. The breakaway region claims it has downed a total of seven Georgian spy planes in recent months.

“We will only renew our faith in the mediators, especially the UN, after they answer a number of questions. Firstly, when they evaluate those flights. Secondly, when they comment on information we have that the flights were agreed with the UN,” Shamba is quoted as saying.

The breakaway republic’s Deputy Defence Minister, Garry Kupalba, claims it “detected two unmanned aircraft entering Abkhazian airspace and shot them down using the republic's ground air-defence forces.”

The Abkhazians showed their trophy, the wreckage of a plane, to journalists.

In total, seven Georgian spy jets are reported to have been shot down after breaching the unofficial border with Abkhazia in the past few weeks.

However, Georgia says it has only lost one, a surveillance aircraft it claims was hit by a Russian military plane on April 20.

Tbilisi has released a tape to prove all of its aircraft continue successful spying in the Abkhazian skies. The date seen in the footage is May 8, the same date Abkhazia claims to have hit one of two drones it spotted.

The second drone, according to Garry Kupalba, was flying parallel to an international flight route which is usually used by civil aircraft.

“So the Defence Ministry of the Republic of Abkhazia decided not to shoot the spy plane down,” he said.

The flights of military aircraft above Abkhazia are prohibited by peace agreements. But Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili refuses to stop surveillance missions. This has recently been backed by U.S. diplomats who visited Abkhazia.

Several weeks ago Russia increased its peacekeeping force in the region following Georgia’s militarisation of the upper part of the Kodori Gorge on the border between Georgia and its breakaway republic.

UN observers and Russian peacekeepers, acting on a UN mandate, are the only forces separating the Georgian army from Abkhazian troops in this frozen conflict.