Russian Foreign Ministry on Tbilisi's note about "bombing raids in Pankisi Gorge"

The Russian foreign ministry has reminded Tbilisi that it was Moscow who advanced an initiative to investigate so-called "bombing raids in the Pankisi Gorge." As Boris Malakhov, a deputy official spokesman for the Russian foreign ministry, told journalists while commenting on Georgia's proposal to set up a joint commission to investigate bombing raids against the Georgian territory, the press service of the Russian Air Force announced on August 23rd that it was ready to provide Tbilisi with "unbiased control information" showing Russia had not violated the Russian-Georgian air border.

On August 26th, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov announced that Russia was ready to join the Georgian side in an effort to check into reports about bombing raids on the Pankisi Gorge and also to provide Tbilisi with control materials, including radar data.

"To put it short, it was Russia who came up with an idea of such an investigation," said Malakhov.

As for the note advancing the proposal of the Georgian foreign ministry, "it was received and given due consideration," said the deputy spokesman.

Last Friday, the Georgian foreign ministry distributed a special statement, asserting that "on August 23, according to preliminary information, two groups of Russian military planes, four planes in all, violated Georgia's air space and bombed the Georgian territory from 5:20 a.m. to 6:07 a.m. The villages bombed were Patara Borbalo, Ukana Pshavi, Batana, Okhredi, and the vicinity of the River Ilto." The Georgian foreign ministry laid the blame on "aggressive circles of the Russian Federation, including military circles, who whipped up an anti-Georgian hysteria and called for a military campaign on the Georgian territory under a trumped-up excuse of combating terrorism." Ivanov was categorical that Georgia's accusations were not true. "I hear this for the tenth, twentieth or I don't know which time, so it's no news," said the defence minister, adding that Georgia had not bothered to furnish any proof.

He said he thought it possible that the Georgian armed forces had "done something themselves" and then considered it more convenient to blame somebody else for the raid." He explained that the Georgian authorities did not want to "quarrel with militants, who could point their weapons at them any moment, and nobody knows what it would have ended in." The press secretary with the Russian defence ministry Colonel Nikolai Deryabin, too, said Georgia's statements were ungrounded. Any sortie made by the Russian aviation has to be confirmed by "unbiased recordings showing the parameters of the flight," he said, adding that the Russian side was ready to present these recordings to any commission

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