Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 119

On June 18, four MiG-29 planes overflew Georgia without permission for approximately forty minutes and ignored Georgian signals from the ground. Reporting the incident, Georgia’s Deputy Defense Minister Grigol Katamadze observed that it “not the first gross violation” of Georgia’s airspace and of international law by Russian military aircraft.

Whether the four planes had taken off from Russian territory in the North Caucasus or from a Russian base in Armenia seemed unclear (Radio Tbilisi, June 19). But the timing of the incident raises the distinct possibility that the four Russian planes were the same ones which landed that evening in Armenia for permanent deployment there (see Armenia item). The December 1998 MiG-29 deployment has led to several violations of the airspace of neighboring countries. On February 27, a Russian-piloted MiG-29 based in Armenia intruded into Azerbaijan, drawing an official protest to Moscow (see the Monitor, March 4).

In apparent reaction to the airspace violation, the Georgian parliament’s defense and security committee chairman Revaz Adamia announced that the United States plans to assist Georgia in creating an airspace control system. That control system will in turn constitute the basis of a Georgian air defense system. According to Adamia, Washington has earmarked US$18 million to equip Georgia with radars and other installations for the control of both civilian and military flights in Georgia’s airspace. Tbilisi is currently discussing with the Pentagon the next stage of the program, which involves the creation of the air defense system, along the lines of the systems established with U.S. military assistance in Central European countries (Prime-News, June 19).

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