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Russia to Send Experts to Probe into Missile Incident

A group of 25 Russian military experts will arrive in Tbilisi on August 16 to cooperate in the investigation of the August 6 missile incident, Georgian officials said.

?We have requested Russia to provide its air traffic records and to cooperate in order to find out what happened on August 6,? Davit Dondua, chief of the political department at the Georgian Foreign Ministry said on August 15. ?Today the Russian ambassador [Vyacheslav Kovalenko] informed us that the Russian side was ready for this kind of cooperation and tomorrow we expect a 25-member delegation of military experts from Russia.?

Ambassador Kovalenko said he had discussed with Georgian Foreign Ministry officials issues related to ?a joint investigation of the August 6 incident.? He said he ruled out Russia?s involving in the incident.

Military investigators and experts specializing in radars and munitions from Latvia, Lithuania, Sweden and the United States are already probing into the incident. They arrived following Tbilisi’s call for an independent and unbiased examination of the evidence. The group is known as the Independent Inter-Governmental Expert Group (IIEG).

The Georgian government says its air traffic records, both civilian and military, confirm that a Russian SU-24 attack aircraft violated Georgia?s airspace and dropped a Raduga Kh-58 anti-radar tactical guided missile (NATO classification – AS11 Kilter) close to the South Ossetian conflict zone on August 6.

?We can only welcome the Russian provision of radar records,? Davit Bakradze, the Georgian state minister for conflict resolution issues, said on August 15, after hearing of Russia?s readiness to cooperate.

Bakradze, however, stressed that like the Georgian air traffic records, ?radar records provided by Russia should also undergo international expert examination.?

Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili said if the incident were not investigated, “the perpetrators might be emboldened to take further action either in Georgia or elsewhere in Europe.?

Meanwhile, the missile incident remains a focus of the western press.

?Russia supports a bilateral approach to clarifying this situation based on unbiased information,? Alexey G. Timofeev, a press secretary of the Russian embassy in the United States, said in a letter to the editor of the Washington Post.

The letter, published by the newspaper on August 15, was a rebuttal to the Washington Post?s August 9 editorial ?Russian Aggression? Another missile attack in the Republic of Georgia.?

Russian diplomats said the Washingtong Post editorial left the impression that there was overwhelming evidence to support Georgia’s claims and that Russia was clearly to blame for the missile attack. ?This could not be further from the truth.”

In the same issue, on August 15, the Washington Post, however, wrote again in its editorial: ?As we noted last week, the likely culprit [of the missile incident] is Russia? and ?Russia has produced no credible evidence to back up this far-fetched theory? that Georgia itself staged the incident to incriminate Russia.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)


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