Unidentified plane reportedly shot down in Kodori gorge

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A military plane flying over the Kodori Valley has been shot down, some residents of the Kodori Gorge told Georgia's Rustavi 2 television by telephone on Friday evening. After several shots were fired at the plane, it lost control and fell in a hard-to-reach area, they said. The incident, reportedly, occurred late on August 23, but the news broke a day later.

Debris of the aircraft have not yet been found, as it crashed in a remote area of the gorge, reports said. Witnesses, however, told Rustavi 2 TV via phone that they saw a black smoke coming from the crash site.

The Georgian Interior Ministry has confirmed the incident, saying that fire was opened at a plane that intruded into the Georgian airspace over the Kodori Gorge. It said it was not clear whether it was a Russian or Abkhaz aircraft. Abkhaz forces were holding large scale military maneuvers, involving at least two army helicopters and two aircraft, near the Kodori Gorge at that period of time.

The Russian air force branded as "one more provocative piece of information" a Georgian media report that a Russian warplane was shot down on Friday over the Kodori Gorge in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region.

"It is one more provocative piece of information directed against us," air force spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky told Interfax. "I state once again that no aircraft of the air force of the Russian Federation has violated the border with Georgia. All air force aircraft are currently on airfields, and the pilots are having a rest," he said. "If one analyzes all Georgian statements about air space invasions, all of them are launched at night, strange as it is," Drobyshevsky added. The Abkhaz side has also denied it.