Moscow Says Drone Broke UN Strictures

Russia said Tuesday that a Georgian unmanned reconnaissance flight over the rebel region of Abkhazia violated United Nations cease-fire agreements.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the drone had been shot down by separatist forces in Abkhazia -- not a Russian jet, as alleged by Tbilisi.

"This flight by the reconnaissance plane ... is a violation of both the Moscow cease-fire and force separation agreement of May 14, 1994, and a corresponding resolution of the United Nations Security Council regarding the mandate of the UN observation mission in Georgia," the ministry said.

The ministry said the drone flight took place Sunday morning, but the Georgian Interior Ministry had only informed the United Nations mission about it on Sunday evening.

"Therefore the flight was an unsanctioned military action," the ministry said.

Georgia claimed that a Russian fighter jet shot down an unmanned Georgian spy plane Sunday as it flew over Abkhazia. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili accused Russia of an "act of international aggression," but President Vladimir Putin said Georgia was deliberately fanning tensions in the region by flying reconnaissance flights.

The UN Security Council, meanwhile, has scheduled a closed-door meeting for Wednesday to discuss Georgia's call for the UN's most powerful body to address Russia's purported "military aggression."

Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters after the council discussed Georgia's request for an emergency meeting on Monday afternoon that "we did not object to having a meeting ... and we'll have things to say at that meeting as well."

Georgian Foreign Minister David Bakradze is expected to attend the council meeting. Churkin said he reminded the council of the need to hear the views of the Abkhazian side as well, "and we will continue to work having them invited to speak to the council."

Tensions between the two countries have escalated over two breakaway regions in Georgia -- Abkhazia and South Ossetia -- which have close ties to Moscow and have been independently run since the early 1990s, when fighting with Georgian troops ended.

Last week, Putin ordered his government to increase cooperation with the separatist authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Moscow has granted Russian citizenship to the vast majority of the breakaway regions' residents and recently lifted a 12-year set of trade sanctions against Abkhazia. Russian officials have warned that Georgia will have to abandon its claims on the regions if it joins NATO.

NATO declined to offer Georgia a road map for membership at a summit earlier this month but assured pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili that his nation will eventually join the alliance.

Georgia's UN ambassador, Irakli Alasania, said Putin's order on April 16 launching full-scale cooperation and formalizing its relations with Abkhazia motivates the separatists "to completely withdraw from [the] negotiation process" and "poses an open threat to Georgia's statehood and sovereignty."

"We witness a new dangerous reality," Alasania said. "The Russian Federation is legitimizing annexation of Abkhazia and ... South Ossetia -- integral parts of the internationally recognized territory of Georgia."

He said the latest Russian actions and separatist threats forced Georgia to use unarmed capabilities to collect intelligence data "on our sovereign territory" -- and that on Sunday "Russian military aircraft intruded Georgian airspace above Abkhazia" and shot down an unarmed vehicle.

"We call upon the UN to address this direct military aggression against Georgia and fully exploit [its] own means and capabilities in order to keep the situation from further escalation," Alasania said.

He called on the UN military observer mission in Georgia to expand its monitoring capabilities "with emphasis on detection of any military activities on Abkhazian segment of Georgian-Russian border."

"Georgia appeals to the international community to employ all resources at their disposal in order to stop Russia's infringement of Georgia's national integrity," he said.

While council members will discuss Georgia's complaint, no action is likely since Russia, as a permanent council member, has veto power.

Reuters, AP