Thu, Aug 23, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Russia accuses Georgia of fabricating missile claims

AGENCIES , UNITED NATIONS

Russia accused Georgia on Tuesday of fabricating claims that a Russian plane entered the country's airspace and dropped a missile because it wanted to create "a political tsunami."

Georgia says a Russian SU-24 jet entered the country's airspace and dropped a missile on Aug. 6. The missile did not explode and no casualties were reported, but the incident sharply escalated long-standing tensions between Georgia and its giant neighbor over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia -- near where the missile fell -- and Abkhazia.

Summarizing results of a Russian probe conducted last Thursday and Friday of the missile site, Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin on Tuesday accused Georgia of thwarting a proper investigation by even covering up the hole where the weapon was found.

"Georgia leveled and filled in the hole," Churkin told a news conference.

He said that remains of the missile included a small piece bearing markings written in English.

"The use of foreign manufactured components is banned," Churkin said, adding that Russian pilots were even forbidden to "wear Swiss-made watches."

Experts from the US, Sweden, Latvia and Lithuania said their investigation showed that a plane from Russia was responsible. But Churkin said this group made no effort to get in touch with Russian experts.

Experts from those countries identified the missile as the Russian-designed KH-58 and said that the Georgian air force did not have aircraft equipped with or able to launch KH-58 missiles.

Churkin said Georgia showed Russia parts of what it said was an unexploded Russian KH-58 missile. But among the fragments only three belonged to a munition of that class while others had markings that were not part of a KH-58 missile, he said.

The Russian investigators also doubted Georgian radar data, which Churkin said failed "to identify maneuvers of unidentified aircraft in the vicinity of Tsitelubani village."

Consequently, information gathered by Russian experts "make it possible to state with full confidence that the incident of Aug. 6 was a deliberate provocation organized and carried out by those in Georgia who are interested in aggravating the situation," Churkin said.

Russia has blocked any UN Security Council debate Georgia requested and the US advocated. Churkin said that UN peacekeepers in the area had no independent information so there was no basis for a discussion.

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