Georgia says Russian jets dropped unexploded bomb

Ex-Soviet Georgia said on Tuesday that two Russian fighter jets had violated its airspace and dropped a 700kg bomb, but this had not exploded.

Shota Utiashvili, the head of the Georgian interior ministry’s public relations department, told Reuters that the bomb was dropped on the village of Tsitelubani, about 65km north-west of the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

”Two Russian fighter jets flew from Russia to the Georgian territory yesterday [Monday] evening and dropped a 700 kilo bomb on the village of Tsitelubani,” he said.

”Fortunately it didn’t explode. If it had exploded it would have been a disaster,” he added. He said nobody was hurt.

The village is near the city of Gori, and a few kilometres to the south of Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia region, a long-standing cause of friction between Russia and Tbilisi.

Russia provides moral and financial support for Georgia’s rebel Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. It has accused Tbilisi of pursuing anti-Russian policies.

Russian defence ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Georgian interior ministry spokesman said the bomb was dropped at 4pm GMT on Monday, and that bomb disposal experts were now at the scene.

Georgia’s previous administration, under ousted president Eduard Shevardnadze, accused Russia in 2002 of sending fighter jets on sorties over its territory, but Moscow denied any involvement.

At that time, Tbilisi alleged that Russian jets had dropped ordnance on uninhabited areas of the remote Pankisi Gorge in north-east Georgia, near the border with Russia.

Relations between Russia and Georgia deteriorated sharply again last year when Tbilisi deported four Russian army officers, accusing them of spying.

Moscow responded by withdrawing its ambassador from Tbilisi and cutting air, sea and postal links with Georgia. Russia also deported several thousand Georgians, saying they were illegal immigrants.

Tension is still high but there have been tentative signs this year that the crisis was easing. Moscow’s ambassador has returned to Tbilisi and the two sides have been in talks — so far unsuccessful — to restore air links. – Reuters

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