DEUTSCHE PRESSE AGENTUR
May 26, 2008
Brussels – Russia, not Georgian separatists, was responsible for shooting down an unmanned Georgian plane in April, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said Monday, citing a UN report. “This morning the UN report on the April 20 incidents has been published and that confirms what we knew: it was a Russian fighter coming from Russia that was operating over the Black Sea outside Abkhazia (that) shot down the Georgian thing,” Bildt said.
“The Georgian version of events has been confirmed, the Russian version has been refuted, and that’s an important fact in itself,” Bildt said ahead of a meeting with EU counterparts in Brussels.
Relations between Georgia and Russia have long been strained over Moscow’s support for the separatist Georgian territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but they reached a new low on April 20 after Georgia accused Russia of shooting down one of its unmanned reconnaissance aircraft over Abkhazia.
Russia rejected the accusation, saying that it was Abkhaz separatists who had downed the plane – a claim the Abkhaz authorities echoed.
And on May 14 Russia’s chief of staff, General Yuri Baluyevski, accused some European states of supplying arms to Georgia and demanded that they stop “militarizing” the Caucasus.
Monday’s meeting of EU foreign ministers is expected to discuss a joint Swedish-Polish proposal to strengthen ties with key eastern neighbours, including Georgia. Georgia’s foreign minister is also in Brussels and met her Nordic and Baltic counterparts early Monday.
The meeting also gave the European Commission a mandate to start talks with Russia on a partnership on issues ranging from energy and education to trade and culture.