Georgia says Russian jets violated its airspace

TBILISI (Reuters) – Georgia on Wednesday said four Russian air force jets had violated its airspace over a volatile Moscow-backed separatist region on Tuesday.

Russia’s Defence Ministry was not immediately available to comment on the Georgian allegation.

“Yesterday at 20:11 (12:11 a.m. EDT) two fighter jets violated Georgia’s airspace from the Russian Federation. At 20:20 two more fighter jets entered Georgian airspace from Russia,” said Zurab Pochkhua, deputy commander of the Georgian military.

“They were flying over Tskhinvali for about 40 minutes,” he told journalists, referring to the main town in Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia region.

“This case differs from all others which took place before, as fighter jets create a threat not only to the population of the region, but also to civil aviation flights as some international routes go over this territory,” he said.

Pochkhua said the Georgian side did not make any attempts to shoot down the planes as it did not want to endanger lives on the ground.

South Ossetia runs its own affairs with Russian support but is recognized internationally as part of Georgia.

Georgia made the accusation shortly before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to arrive in Tbilisi for talks at which she is likely to express support for Georgia’s pro-Western government and its bid to join NATO.

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