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Russia Continues Investigation Of Georgian Missile Claim

August 17, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Moscow has dismissed the findings of international investigators who said an aircraft from Russia recently violated Georgian airspace and dropped a missile.

A delegation of Russian military experts arrived in Tbilisi on August 16 to conduct their own investigation of the August 6 incident.

RFE/RL's Georgian Service reported that the Russian team met with Georgian Defense Ministry officials and examined evidence gathered by a group of military experts from Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden, and the United States.

Russia Not Convinced

Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi, Russian ambassador-at-large Valery Kenyaikin said on August 16 that Moscow did not find the evidence convincing.

He also said the Russian team presented evidence that refuted the team's findings.

"The documents handed to the Georgian side show -- and I hope prove -- the absence of any information or elements [of information] testifying to the violation of Georgian airspace by Russia," Kenyaikin said.

Today, the Russian team is visiting the site where the missile landed. The experts are also expected to meet with General Marat Kulakhmetov, the Russian commander of the joint peacekeeping force in South Ossetia, and to visit the Georgian Interior Ministry's headquarters, where remnants of the missile are being stored.

The international group of experts said a single aircraft flew from Russian to Georgian airspace and back three times on August 6, and discharged a Russian-designed KH-58 missile. The missile, which did not explode, landed near a village close to Georgia's border with its breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Russia Blocs UN Statement

Georgia has called on the UN Security Council to hold a special session to discuss the issue.

On August 16, the United States, which backs Georgia's call for a special session, attempted to have the Security Council issue a statement on the alleged incident. Russia, however, blocked the move, calling it "premature."


Copyright (c) 2007. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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