TBILISI, Georgia – Georgian officials said Tuesday that two Russian fighter jets violated its airspace and fired a missile, which fell on the edge of a village but did not explode. Russia denied the claim.
Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Ustiashvili said the intrusion took place late Monday when the aircraft entered Georgia's airspace over the Gori region, about 37 miles northwest of the capital, Tbilisi. They fired a missile, which landed just 25 yards from a house at the edge of Shavshvebi village, he said.
"If it had exploded, it would have been a catastrophe," Ustiashvili told The Associated Press. He said military authorities were considering what to do with the missile, which weighed about a ton. The Gori region neighbors Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia.
Russia's air force spokesman Alexander Drobyshevsky denied the accusations.
"Russian aircraft haven't conducted any flights over that area and haven't violated Georgia's airspace," he told the AP on Tuesday.
Relations between the two ex-Soviet nations have been increasingly tense as Georgia has sought to shed Russia's influence and join NATO in 2008. Georgian officials frequently have claimed that Russian military aircraft violated its airspace — accusations Russia has denied.
Earlier this year, Georgia said Russian helicopters fired on its territory in the Kodori Gorge, a volatile area on the fringes of breakaway province of Abkhazia. A subsequent report by the U.N. observer mission in Georgia last month said it was not clear who fired at the Georgian territory.
NATO has announced it would open an information center in the Kodori Gorge.
Tbilisi has accused Russia of trying to destabilize Georgia and backing separatists in its breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has pledged to bring two rebel regions, which have been de facto independent since the early 1990s, back into fold.