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Russia says UN's Georgia spy plane probe unreliable

RIA Novosti

27/05/2008 19:16 MOSCOW, May 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia said on Tuesday it did not have confidence in a UN probe into Georgia's allegations that a Russian aircraft shot down an unmanned reconnaissance plane last month as it was based on unreliable evidence.

The UN mission in Georgia confirmed in a report on Monday the ex-Soviet state's claims that a reconnaissance drone had been shot down by the Russian Air Force over the breakaway region of Abkhazia on April 20.

"The quality of the enquiries is questionable in general," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "A whole range of conclusions in the UN report raises questions. We do not doubt the UN experts' professionalism, but have no confidence in the evidence provided - video footage and some radar recordings."

The ministry said Georgia chose not to "risk" handing over the footage to Russia for studies and added Georgian radar recordings did not correspond to Russian data.

Speaking in Denmark earlier on Tuesday, the Russian foreign minister also cast doubt on the reliability of the video recording.

"What Russian experts could make from the footage shown on Georgian television raises numerous questions," Sergei Lavrov said. "We publicly asked those questions several weeks ago, but have received no answers."

Following the UN report, Tbilisi demanded on Tuesday that Russia give an official apology and pay compensation for the downing of the spy plane.

Georgia called the downing an act of aggression, the assessment shared by some Western countries.

Moscow has accused Tbilisi of violating a ceasefire agreement by sending spy planes into the conflict zone, where it has maintained peacekeeping troops since the bloody conflict in the early 1990s.

Abkhazia and Georgia's other breakaway territory, South Ossetia, have been a source of tensions between the former Soviet allies, with Tbilisi accusing Moscow of backing separatism on its sovereign territory.

Tensions have also been fueled by Georgia's plans to join NATO.

The Foreign Ministry said Russia is insisting on further investigations into the claims. "We hope the truth will be established regarding the April 20 incident."

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