UN Says Russia Shot Georgian Spy Plane

The United Nations observer mission in Georgia on Monday concluded that the plane that shot down an unmanned Georgian reconnaissance aircraft last month belonged to the Russian military.

Although Russia denied the claim, the European Union urged Moscow to explain its actions.

Tensions have been high for months over Russia's support for the Georgian separatist province of Abkhazia -- where the aircraft was shot down -- and Georgia's drive to join NATO.

The observers' report said both sides had violated an Abkhazia cease-fire agreement -- Russia by shooting down the drone and Georgia by flying it over Abkhazia. The reconnaissance drone was shot down April 20. A video taken by the pilotless aircraft shows a fighter jet firing a missile in its direction.

Abkhazia's separatist government claimed that the drone was shot down by one of its L-39 jets. However, the plane in the video had a distinctive twin-finned tail, and the report concluded that it was either a MiG-29 or Su-27 -- neither of which Abkhazia possesses.

The report of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia said radar tracking showed that after the missile was fired, the plane headed into Russian airspace.

"Absent compelling evidence, this leads to the conclusion that the aircraft belonged to the Russian Air Force," the report said.

But in Moscow, Defense Ministry spokesman Colonel Alexander Drobyshevsky said, "There cannot be any talk of any kind of violation of the state border of Georgia or of the shooting down of an unpiloted flying apparatus," RIA-Novosti reported.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said that "Georgia for the first time has confirmation from the UN that Russia has committed an act of aggression against Georgia."

Georgia has long accused Russia of aiming to annex Abkhazia and another separatist region, South Ossetia. Both have been outside the Georgian government's control since the end of fighting in the mid-1990s.

In Brussels, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, speaking on behalf of the EU at the end of foreign ministers' talks Monday, urged Russian officials to respond to the UN report and "explain" their actions.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, said he would go to Georgia next week to bolster European ties with the country.

Abkhazia claims to have shot down seven Georgian drones this year. Georgia has denied all the claims except for the April 20 incident, which it also initially denied.

The observer report said, however, that wreckage from at least two other incidents was confirmed to be that of Hermes 450 drones such as those used by Georgia.