Putin voices concern over Georgian flights over breakaway region

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Moscow, Apr 22 (UNI) Outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed serious concern over the military drone flights over the breakaway region of the former Soviet Republic of Georgia and warned that such flights led to the escalation of tensions in the region.

Mr Putin's warning comes in the wake of the UN Security Council's meet scheduled for tomorrow at Georgia's request to discuss accusations of the Russian aggression in Abkhazia.

The latest dispute between Moscow and Tbilisi over the breakaway region was triggered yesterday as Georgia accused Russia of shooting down an unmanned reconnaissance aircraft over Abkhazia.

A Russian air force spokesman denied the Georgian claim, dismissing it as ''nonsense'' while Abkhaz rebels said they had downed the drone.

The President discussed the recent Georgian drone incident with his Georgian counterpart Mikhail Saakashvili over the phone.

He expressed ''bewilderment over the very fact of military flights performed by the Georgian side over the conflict zone,'' the Kremlin press service said in a statement.

He also stressed that this contradicted the letter and the spirit of the Moscow ceasefire and disengagement agreement of May 14, 1994, and was a ''destabilising factor leading to the escalation of tensions,'' the statement said.

Mr Putin explained to Mr Saakashvili his government's decision to withdraw from the CIS sanctions on Abkhazia and start interacting with Abkhazian and South Ossetian authorities in trade, economic, social, scientific and technical, information, cultural, and educational fields in order to ensure comprehensive protection of the legitimate interests of Russian citizens living in those territories.

Mr Putin noted that the steps taken by Russia completely within the law and pursue solely social and economic purposes, which differs them fundamentally from the politicised and unlawful decisions of a number of countries on the recognition of the unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence.


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