Helicopter Dispute in Georgia

13_1.jpgGeorgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili held an emergency meeting of his security council Monday after the government charged that Russian helicopters had attacked a disputed gorge under Tbilisi’s control.Georgian interior ministry officials said three Russian helicopters fired late Sunday on Kodor gorge in the breakaway republic of Abkhazia, a long-standing flashpoint for tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi.


The Air Force denied any attacks and said all its aircraft near the area were grounded over the weekend.


Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said after the security council meeting that he would discuss the incident with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov. “I plan to call my Russian colleague to discuss what happened last night in Kodor gorge,” he said.


Relations between Tbilisi and its former Soviet master have soured over Moscow’s support for Georgia’s two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Kodor gorge is the de facto border between Abkhazia and Georgia. Russia has peacekeeping forces in the region.


Saakashvili cut short a stopover in Kazakhstan to return to Tbilisi for the emergency meeting, a spokesman said.


The Georgian leader says he wants to bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into Georgia. Russian officials say Moscow’s peacekeepers are preventing a bloodbath in the region.


“Three helicopters bombed the gorge for a half an hour. They were Russian helicopters. There are no victims, but several buildings were partly destroyed,” said Shota Khizanishvili, chief of staff at the Georgian Interior Ministry.


But the military said its aircraft could not have carried out the attack. “No Russian helicopters or planes carried out flights in the area on either Saturday or Sunday,” Alexander Drobyshevsky, an Air Force spokesman, said by telephone.


A source in the pro-Tbilisi administration in the gorge said two villages were also attacked with rockets from Abkhazia.


Abkhaz separatist officials said they had no information on the incident.


Source: TheMoscowTimes

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