August 23, 2007 / 10:00 AM / in 11 years

Russia says Georgia suffers "hallucinations" in plane row

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s armed forces chief of staff on Thursday described as “hallucinations” Georgia’s claim that Russian warplanes had violated its border on Tuesday, Interfax news agency reported.

Georgia, which has accused Russian aircraft of dropping a missile near its capital Tbilisi earlier this month, said on Wednesday two more Russian jets had illegally crossed its borders. Russia has rejected the claims.

“It must be that our Georgian colleagues are starting to suffer from hallucinations,” General Yuri Baluyevsky said.

Georgia said the Russian planes which crossed its border on Tuesday were flying at a speed of between 450 and 490 kph (about 280 to 300 mph).

“Even I, an infantry man by training, know that warplanes do not fly at such speed,” he said. “Even helicopters fly at only slightly lower speeds.”

Relations between Russia and Georgia have been in crisis since U.S.-educated President Mikhail Saakashvili came to power in Tbilisi three years ago and moved his republic of five million people out of Moscow’s orbit.

Russia last year cut air, sea and postal links with its southern neighbour over a spying row. Before that, Moscow had banned imports of Georgian wine and mineral water, both major sources of revenue, citing health concerns.

The missile incident has had repercussions beyond the region, turning into an irritant in ties between Russia and the United States, Georgia’s ally.

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