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Tbilisi Claims Russian Jet Downed its Drone in Abkhazia
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 21 Apr.'08 / 16:54


Georgia retracted an initial denial and admitted on Monday that one of its unmanned spy planes was shot down over Abkhazia on April 20.

Colonel David Nairashvili, commander of the Georgian air force, told Reuters on April 21 that the drone was downed by a Russian MIG-29 fighter jet.

The Georgian air force supplied Reuters with video footage which it said was recorded and transmitted by the drone's on-board camera before it was shot down.

The pictures show a jet aircraft firing a missile in the direction of the drone. A few seconds later the screen goes blank. No identification markings are visible on the aircraft that fired the missile, according to Reuters.

Col. Nairashvili said that Georgia’s radar records showed the MIG-29 had taken off from a base in Abkhazia and had flown to Russia after downing the Georgian drone.

A Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesperson told Civil.Ge that the Ministry planned to make a statement on the matter later on Monday.

The Abkhaz side reported earlier on April 21 that it had found debris from the downed Georgian spy plane. Gali Kupalba, the breakaway region’s deputy defense minister, said that examination of the debris revealed that it was a medium-sized unmanned aerial vehicle produced by an Israeli company, Elbit Systems, in 2006.

He said that a similar type of drone was shot down by the Abkhaz side on March 18.

He also said that the serial number of the aircraft had been identified, but he didn't give it. Later on Monday Russian TV showed the debris of the aircraft.

On April 20 the Georgian Defense Ministry denied that the drone was shot down, saying the claim was “misinformation.”

Information, involving video footage from the drone's on-board camera, was first released by the Georgian authorities to the Reuters and not to the local media sources. The Georgian television stations (Mze TV and the Georgian Public Broadcaster) said nothing about this report in their 5pm news bulletins.

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