Georgia Claims to Have Shot Down Russian Drone

ReutersAn Interior Ministry official standing behind what Georgia says is a Russian-made reconnaissance drone in Tbilisi on Tuesday. Georgia said it shot down the drone over its own territory just south of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, the first such in
TBILISI, Georgia -- Georgia said Tuesday that it had shot down a Russian reconnaissance drone just south of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, but Russia denied the claim and accused Tbilisi of "provocation."

If confirmed, it would be the first such incident since last month when Russian forces repelled a Georgian offensive to retake South Ossetia from pro-Moscow separatists.

"This is the latest media provocation by Georgia with the aim of destabilizing the situation in the region," Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky said.

"The aircraft of Russia's Defense Ministry have conducted no flights in the security zone," he said.

The Georgian Interior Ministry said the drone was shot down Monday morning near the town of Gori, some 30 kilometers from the de facto border with South Ossetia

"It was flying over the territory between the villages of Khurvaleti and Tsitelubani," ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said. "We believe it was patrolling the territory where the Baku-Supsa [oil] pipeline runs."

The ministry displayed what it said was the Russian drone during a news conference. The aircraft was around 1 meter in length and 1.5 meters wide.

Utiashvili said it was a short-range drone capable of taking photographs, and suggested that it had been launched from Russian positions at a "security zone" just a few kilometers north of Gori.

Russian forces continue to hold positions inside undisputed Georgian territory after they repelled a Georgian assault on South Ossetia.

Under the terms of a French-brokered deal, Russian forces are due to withdraw from the "security zones" adjacent to South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, by Oct. 10.

A European Union mission of at least 200 monitors begins deploying this week to observe the pullback.

Before last month's war, Georgia flew unmanned reconnaissance aircraft over Abkhazia. A United Nations report concluded that one of them had been shot down by a Russian jet, though Moscow denied this.