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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Abkhazia Claims Responsibility For Air Raid

MOSCOW -- The Abkhazian Defense Ministry claimed responsibility Monday for an air raid on a residential area that killed one man and wounded others in Sukhumi, capital of the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, Itar-Tass reported.

The Russian Defense Ministry earlier denied Georgian reports that a Russian military plane had carried out the bombing, the news agency said.

The L-39 plane dealt "a retaliatory bomb strike on positions of the Georgian occupation forces" in Sukhumi, the Abkhazian parliament's press center told Itar-Tass, adding that the attack had destroyed an anti-aircraft installation.

The Georgian military reported that the plane attacked Saturday night about 11 P. M. local time and fired two air-to-surface missiles at a residential area of Sukhumi.

Eight people, including Tengiz Pachkoria, a Georgian journalist who works for Russia's Nezavisimaya Gazeta and Itar-Tass, were wounded. Pachkoria's father was killed in the air strike, the Georgian command said.

According to Georgian accounts, the Georgian side protested to the Russian Army headquarters in the Black Sea resort of Gudauta, and was told that the attack came to avenge Saturday's shelling of a Russian Army unit stationed in Abkhazia.

Interfax quoted the Russian Defense Ministry as confirming an air strike on "military targets" in Sukhumi. It said the Georgians have denied that their forces shelled the Russian unit on Saturday.

Georgian leader Eduard Shevardnadze flew to Sukhumi on Sunday, but there was no official word on the purpose of his trip.

The fighting in Abkhazia, which began last August, has claimed hundreds of lives and turned thousands of people into refugees.

It started after Georgia sent its troops into the rich Black Sea province to crush guerrillas backing the ousted Georgian President Zviad Gamsakhurdia. But leaders of the separatist Abkhazian minority, convinced that the Tbilisi government wanted to derail their independence drive, fought back.

Georgia now controls about half of Abkhazia, including Sukhumi, and the rest -- up to the Russian border -- is in the hands of Abkhazians and the fellow Muslim volunteers from the Russian northern Caucasus who assist them.

During the war, there have been numerous but isolated fire exchanges between the Georgians and the Russian army units in Abkhazia. Georgia accuses these units of siding with the Abkhazia. (Itar-Tass, AP)