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9 Aug, 2007 11:49

Russia calls for prompt probe into missile incident in Georgia

Moscow says it will fully co-operate in an investigation into who was responsible for launching a missile into neighbouring Georgia. Russia denies one of its planes was to blame, but Georgia has asked the United Nations Security Council to discuss the issue.

Russia's Foreign Ministry says the incident is an attempt to derail improving relations between the two countries.

The missile that landed in the Georgian village of Tsitelubani on Monday evening may have failed to detonate, but the incident has already exploded into a fresh diplomatic row between Russia and Georgia.

Georgia claims the missile was fired by Russia in ‘an unprovoked act of aggression’, and targeted a radar station close to the breakaway region of South Ossetia. 

Moscow is extremely concerned about this incident, and considers it an attempt to derail improving trends in Russian-Georgian relations, as well as to exacerbate the situation in the settlement of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict,

Russian Foreign Ministry

“We have already identified the type of rocket. It is the type produced in the 70s, known under the name Kh-58, also called the AS-11. The rocket is intended for anti-radar purposes.  And it was deliberately launched against the radar located not far from the place it was found – not more than five kilometers from that radar,” said Giga Tatishvili, Georgian Deputy Chief-of-Staff.

Russia strenuously denies these allegations, condemning the incident as a provocation.

“Moscow is extremely concerned about this incident, and considers it an attempt to derail improving trends in Russian-Georgian relations, as well as to exacerbate the situation in the settlement of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict. The position of the Russian side has been stated. We are not inclined to engage in excessive public rhetoric and anticipate the outcome of the investigation. We insist that it be carried out promptly and effectively. We are ready to co-operate in these issues,” Russian Foreign Ministry stated on Wednesday. 

The authorities in the Georgian breakaway Republic of South Ossetia, just a few kilometres from where the missile landed, say another missile landed on their territory, and claimed that Georgia herself was responsible for both incidents.

“The plane which fired the missile at South Ossetia came from the Georgian side. There were no Russian flights that violated Georgian air space. It is impossible, flights of all Russian jets are strictly monitored by international radar,” commented South Ossetian envoy to Moscow, Dmitry Medoev.

And though almost all of Georgia’s political spectrum has united to condemn the attack as Russian aggression, the view that Georgia bombed herself has found support from some of the more radical opposition parties.

“The international community has once again witnessed a dirty and very dangerous provocation. The bombing has two clear purposes: the first is to divert the attention of the Georgian people from the government’s evil deeds to patriotic themes. The second purpose is to start a war on the territory of Georgia and thus guarantee a second presidential term for Saakashvili,” says Shalva Natelashvili, leader of the Georgian Labour Party.

The Georgian authorities, however, say they have conclusive evidence that proves that the jet involved in the air-raid came from Russia.

“The joint monitoring group, the OSCE, including representatives of Russia, have actually confirmed the fact that the jets entered Georgian air -space from the north. We are open for consultations with our Russian colleagues, in any format, at any time and in any place, in order to have all questions answered,” stated Georgian Foreign Minister, Gela Bezhuashvili.

The Georgian authorities also called on the incident to be discussed in the UN Security Council, and urged the European Union to be actively involved in investigating the incident.