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Russia denies violating Georgian airspace

RIA Novosti

07/08/2007 09:25 MOSCOW, August 7 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian Defense Ministry denied Tuesday claims by Georgia that two Russian military aircraft had violated Georgian airspace and dropped a bomb near a village.

Georgia's Interior Ministry earlier said two Russian fighters flew Monday over Georgian territory dropping a 700-kg bomb on the village of Tsitelubani, located 65 kilometers (about 40 miles) northwest of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. The bomb did not explode, the ministry said.

"Russian aircraft did not fly over Georgian territory either Monday evening or Tuesday morning," said Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky, a spokesman for the Russian Air Force. "They [the aircraft] did not violate Georgian airspace."

The Georgian interior minister called the alleged incident an act of aggression against Georgia.

"I consider this incident as an act of aggression on the part of pilots who flew from the territory of a foreign state," Vano Merabishvili said.

Relations between Russia and Georgia have soured ever since pro-Western president Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in the former Soviet republic on the back of the so called rose revolution in 2003.

Georgia's new West-oriented policy, Russia's presence in Georgian conflict zones, and a ban by Russia on Georgia's key imports, mineral water and wine, have marred relations even further.

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