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Georgian report of firing at helicopter untrue - peacekeepers

RIA Novosti

20/03/2007 15:58 MOSCOW, March 20 (RIA Novosti) - A report in the Georgian mass media that one of the country's military helicopters came under fire in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone is "untrue" and "ungrounded," a deputy commander of the Joint Peacekeeping Force (JPF) said Tuesday.

Georgian media reported Monday that on March 12 a Georgian Air Force Mi-24 helicopter allegedly came under fire near the South Ossetian village of Isakkau before crashing near Bazaleti Lake, in Eastern Georgia.

"Between 6 a.m. March 11 and 6 p.m. March 13, observation posts of the Joint Peacekeeping Force did not register any gunfire or any flights near the village of Issakau, which can be proved by log entries," Vladimir Ivanov said.

Ivanov also said that a Georgian deputy defense minister had already made a statement earlier that the helicopter, en route to Western Georgia, crashed in poor weather conditions.

"It is obvious from the statement that the helicopter was en route from Eastern to the Western Georgia, and that it crashed before it reached the conflict zone," Ivanov said.

The military official added: "Such statements, which contain false information, cause irreparable damage to the peaceful resolution of the conflict, and are aimed at destabilizing the situation in the region."

South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia following a bloody conflict that killed hundreds in 1991-1992. The pro-Western Georgian government of Mikheil Saakashvili has said it is determined to bring the breakaway region back under its control.

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