Georgian forces have shot down an unmanned reconnaissance drone that was flying over a key oil pipeline in the Caucasus nation. They claim it is Russian; Moscow denies it and accuses Tbilisi of provocation.
Georgia said on Tuesday it had shot down a Russian reconnaissance drone just south of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, but Russia denied the claim and accused Tbilisi of "provocation".
If confirmed, it would be the first such incident since last month when Russian forces repelled a Georgian offensive to retake South Ossetia from pro-Moscow separatists.
"This is the latest media provocation by Georgia with the aim of destabilising the situation in the region," Russian Defence Ministry Spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky told Reuters.
"The aircraft of Russia's Defence Ministry have conducted no flights in the security zone," he said.
The Georgian Interior Ministry said the drone was shot down on Monday morning near the town of Gori, some 30 km (20 miles) from the de facto border with South Ossetia
"It was flying over the territory between the villages of Khurvaleti and Tsitelubani," said Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili. "We believe it was patrolling the territory where the Baku-Supsa (oil) pipeline runs."
The ministry displayed what it said was the Russian drone during a news conference. The aircraft was around one metre in length and 1.5 metres wide.
Utiashvili said it was a short-range drone capable of taking photographs, and suggested it had been launched from Russian positions at a 'security zone' just a few kilometres (miles) north of Gori.
Russian forces continue to hold positions inside undisputed Georgian territory after they repelled a Georgian assault on South Ossetia.
Under the terms of a French-brokered deal, Russian forces are due to withdraw from the 'security zones' adjacent to South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, by Oct. 10.
A European Union mission of at least 200 monitors begins deploying this week to observe the pullback.
Before last month's war, Georgia flew unmanned reconnaissance aircraft over Abkhazia. A United Nations report concluded one of them had been shot down by a Russian jet, though Moscow denied this.
Date created : 2008-09-23