Both Moscow and Sokhumi have claimed that the Abkhaz side shot down two unmanned Georgian reconnaissance drones on May 4. Tbilisi has denied the claim, saying it was “a provocation” aimed at “information-propagandistic support of Russia’s military intervention.”
Authorities in breakaway Abkhazia said their air defense had downed one drone at 4:06pm local time over the village of Dikhazurga in the Gali district and another one at 4:51pm local time over the village of Bargebi on the Abkhaz side of the administrative border.
Kristian Bzhania, the Abkhaz leader’s spokesman, said the Abkhaz armed forces were on high alert “because of a serious increase in tensions,” the Abkhaz news agency, Apsnipress, reported.
Shortly after the report the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying the two Georgian drones had been conducting “unauthorized flights” over Abkhazia. It was “natural,” it said, that the Abkhaz would shoot them down.
It also said the latest incidents demonstrated that Tbilisi had “ignored our warnings” about the danger of violating the provisions of the 1994 Moscow agreement on ceasefire and separation of forces. Moscow claims that flights of unmanned spy planes violate the agreement.
“Resorting to adventures with unmanned reconnaissance planes and speeding up military preparations in the conflict zone, the authorities in Tbilisi have taken the path of deliberately escalating tension in the region,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
The Abkhaz side reported later on Sunday that it had found the debris of both downed drones.
Georgia, however, has denied that two of its drones were shot down on Sunday.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “the information is yet another Russian provocation aimed at information-propagandistic support of Russia’s military intervention.”
The Georgian Foreign Ministry pointed out that the Russians had described the alleged incidents as “natural.”
“This indicates clearly that the Russian Federation’s so-called peacekeeping operation, carried out under cover of the CIS, has in fact turned into fiction and now represents nothing more than open military aggression against Georgia with the aim of annexing part of our territory,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.
It also said that Georgian Interior Ministry unarmed, unmanned reconnaissance drones “were flying, are flying and will continue flying over sovereign Georgian airspace to gather full information about the Russian military intervention.”
Exactly two weeks ago an unmanned Georgian drone was shot down over Abkhazia. Initially, Tbilisi denied it had happened but a day later it retracted its denial and confirmed that one of its drones, a Hermes 450, was shot down. Tbilisi claimed that a Russian MIG-29 shot it down and released video footage, transmitted from the drone’s on-board camera, showing a twin-tailed jet firing a missile. Moscow denied the allegation and claimed the footage was fabricated.