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UN Security Council discusses ‘highly provocative’ shooting of Georgian plane

By Mikheil Svanidze
Monday, June 2
A United States spokesman called the downing of a Georgian spy drone a “very dangerous development” after a UN Security Council session last week.

The UN Security Council met in a closed session on May 30 to discuss what Tbilisi and a UN investigation say was the Russian downing of an unmanned Georgian spy plane over separatist Abkhazia on April 20.

The report, put together by an independent team working for the United Nations mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), also reproaches Georgia for carrying out the reconnaissance flights, in breach of a ceasefire agreement. Russia has sought to focus on that portion of the report.

The United States’ representation to the UN argued the ceasefire agreement did not clearly ban the flights and kept its focus on the shooting down of the Georgian plane.

United States envoy Alejandro D. Wolff called the incident “a very dangerous development, highly provocative, clearly a violation of Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Georgia’s representative to the UN, Irakli Alasania, said Georgia has stopped the flights for now.

“Since the [UNOMIG] report was issued, Georgian side stopped the overflights to honor the letter of the current report. It doesn’t mean we will not use these military capabilities if [a] threat will occur in the region,” Alasania told reporters after the Security Council session.

Alasania also said most permanent members of the Security Council blamed Russia for downing the drone. The Georgian envoy called for an end to what he said is Russian action that destabilizes the region.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov dismissed the Security Council session as Georgian “foul play.”

“Discussing these issues without Abkhazian representation is pointless,” he told reporters. “The fact that [the Abkhaz] are not allowed to take part in the discussion raises the suspicion that this is all foul play.”

Lavrov, who has previously cast doubt on UNOMIG’s conclusions, said the root of the problem was Georgia’s repeated overflights of Abkhazia.

Abkhaz forces claim to have downed the drone, along with up to seven others, by either anti-air weaponry on the ground or with their own fighter jets.

Moscow decided to launch its own investigation of the April 20 incident, Russian representative to the UN Vitaly Churkin told Russian news agency Interfax.

Churkin said foreign experts would assist the Russian investigation. He also said the investigation would use all data available, including the UNOMIG team’s conclusions.

In the May 26 report the UNOMIG team wrote that “absent compelling evidence to the contrary, [the radar record] leads to the conclusion that the aircraft belonged to the Russian air force.”

Georgia says the UNOMIG report is clear, and is petitioning Russia for compensation for the spy drone. That would be USD 12 million, according the chair of the temporary parliamentary committee on territorial integrity issues, Shota Malaskhia.

“Tbilisi will demand only the reimbursement of the loss connected to the downing of the unmanned spy drone. The cost of the drone is about USD 12 million,” online news source quoted Malashkhia as saying.