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Georgia says shot down Russia drone near South Ossetia

23/09/2008 - 9:34

TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgia said on Tuesday it had shot down a Russian reconnaissance drone over Georgian territory just south of the breakaway region of South Ossetia, the first such incident since last month's war.

A Russian Defence Ministry spokesman said he had no information about an aircraft being shot down.

The drone was brought down on Monday morning near the town of Gori, some 30 km (20 miles) from the de facto border with South Ossetia, said Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili.

"It was flying over the territory between the villages of Khurvaleti and Tsitelutani," he said. "We believe it was patrolling the territory where the Baku-Supsa (oil) pipeline runs."

Utiashvili said it was a short-range drone, and suggested it had been launched from Russian positions holding a 'security zone' just a few kilometres (miles) north of Gori.

The Russian authorities could not confirm whether a drone had been shot down.

"I have no such information. When I have such information I will be able to comment," Alexander Drobyshevsky, head of the Russian Defence Ministry's press service, told Reuters.

Russian forces continue to hold positions inside undisputed Georgian territory after they repelled a Georgian assault in early August to retake South Ossetia from pro-Moscow separatists.

Under the terms of a French-brokered pullback deal, Russian forces are due to withdraw from the 'security zones' adjacent to South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, by October 10.

(Reporting by Margarita Antidze and Tatiana Ustinova in Moscow; writing by Matt Robinson; editing by Sami Aboudi)