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Georgian Separatists Say Spy Plane Shot Down


Separatists in Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia say their forces have shot down an unmanned Georgian spy plane over the Black Sea.

Georgian and Russian news reports quote the leader of the self-proclaimed government of Abkhazia, Sergei Bagapsh, as saying an Abkhazian aircraft shot down the plane.

Georgia denies the report.

Meanwhile, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili says the Russian-led peacekeeping mission in Abkhazia has lost its legal standing.

After talks in New York Tuesday with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Saakashvili said Russia's decision to lift trade sanctions on Abkhazia has left the peacekeeping mission counter-productive.

He also said the United Nations has failed to carry out the main goal of the mission - returning refugees to Abkhazia.

Mr. Saakashvili has called for a total revision of the mission and an independent commission to help refugees come home.

Russia last week lifted trade sanctions against Abkhazia. It says it no longer feels bound by a 1996 agreement by many former Soviet states to impose economic penalties against separatist regions.

The United States called Russia's decision alarming, saying it could lead to weapons transfers to separatists.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s, sparking war.

Georgia has accused Russia of supporting the separatists and vows to bring both regions back under central government control.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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