A fighter jet that shot down Georgian unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) over Abkhazia on April 20 was Russian, a conclusion of investigation conducted by the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) said on May 26.
“Based on the authentication of the [Georgian] radar record, the FFT [UNOMIG Fact-Finding Team] could confirm that the interceptor - a MiG-29 “Fulcrum” or a Su-27 “Flanker” – headed south towards the UAV and the Ceasefire Line and after the interception and the shooting down of the UAV, turned back to north heading toward Maykop/Krasnodar into the Russian airspace. Absent compelling evidence to the contrary, this leads to the conclusion that the aircraft belonged to the Russian air force,” the report by UNOMIG reads.
It says that the UNOMIG team had studied the Georgian air radar data and concluded that it was authentic. The report also says that video footage transmitted from the drone’s on-board camera before it was shot down was “authentic.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry has claimed that the video was fabricated.
“After careful analysis, the FFT assessed that the video footage was recorded over all the mentioned areas, without any manipulation or cut-outs or copy/paste actions,” the report reads.
Video footage shows the fighter jets with twin-tail marking. “The FFT could conclude that, owing to the distinctive twin-fin configuration of the jet aircraft and the location of the air intakes, the aircraft seen on the video is either a MiG-29 “Fulcrum” or a Su-27 “Flanker,” according to the report.
It also said that although it was possible to identify that the jet flew towards the Russian Federation after the attack, it was not possible to find out from where did it took off. The Georgian side has claimed that the Russian fighter jet took off from the Gudauta military base in Abkhazia.
“The location from where the fighter jet took off still remains unclear,” the UNOMIG report said.
It also says that the fighter jet could really take from the Gudauta base. “However, another scenario is that the interceptor came in at low altitude, probably below 2000m, from somewhere else and then ascended in the vicinity of Gudauta,” the report reads.
In its report UNOMIG, however, also notes that it considered “a reconnaissance mission by a military aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, constituted “military action” and therefore contravened the Moscow Agreement [on ceasefire and separation of forces].”
The Georgian side justifies overflights of its drones over Abkhazia by the need to conduct reconnaissance of Abkhaz military formations and movements.
“However legitimate this purpose may seem to the Georgian side, it stands to reason that this kind of military intelligence-gathering is bound to be interpreted by the Abkhaz side as a precursor to a military operation, particularly in a period of tense relations between the sides,” UNOMIG said.
President Saakashvili has already welcomed the UNOMIG report on the April 20 incident.
“The UN issued a conclusion, which directly accuses the Russian Federation of an act of aggression against Georgia and confirms that Russian jet has bombed the Georgian territory,” Saakashvili said on May 26. “This is the first case when an international organization and especially UN, without general phrases, has directly pointed its finger at Russia.”
He also said that situation was “very difficult.” “The troops of a foreign country have entered the territory of Georgia, although we have not invited them. And we are categorically against their presence here,” Saakashvili said. “I want to say, that we will settle all problems, Georgia will peacefully settle the problem of its territorial integrity.”