Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov has flatly refuted Georgian accusations that Russian aircraft bombed the Pankisi gorge. He refrained from commenting on the statements by the US State Department that the USA had evidence proving the above fact. "My scope of responsibility does not include commenting on the stand of the US State Department," Ivanov stressed.
"As to the accusations of bombings, I would like to recall that they are repeated for tenth, maybe twentieth time (I do not count them), so it is no news at all," the minister remarked. Yet no evidence has been provided so far. According to him, "OSCE observers have not been allowed" to the district "which was allegedly bombed by allegedly Russian Air Forces", he said.
"As to a possible investigation, the defense ministry made it clear at once that we were ready for it, and were ready to provide all our objective control information, including radar monitoring data," the Minister stated in a conversation with journalists after the tactical exercise of the 160th tank regiment at the Borduny test ground, Buryatia.
Sergei Ivanov does not rule out that the Georgian Armed Forces could "undertake something on their own", but it is "more convenient" for Georgia "to once again accuse somebody else of bombing somebody there". The minister sees this as the unwillingness of the Georgian authorities "to quarrel with militants who at any time may turn their arms against the other party, and it is still a big question how this will end".
"The stand of the Georgian authorities is neither a surprise nor a revelation for us," he pointed out. The recent efforts by militants to break through the Russo-Georgian border "once again proved that we were right" believing that the problem of militants in the Pankisi gorge should have been solved long ago, Ivanov pointed out.
"Georgian formations, armed forces, internal troops seem to have realized the difficulty of the problem and are trying to do something," he said. "The question is how they will do that, as simulating action and forcing militants to the Russian territory will not suit us. We do not want bands of murderers and terrorists to come killing and bringing death on our territory from another state," the minister stressed.
Russia "needs something else, to have at least leaders of terrorists blocked, disarmed, and, provided they are Russian citizens, extradited to Russia," he emphasised.
There is yet another variant, though, - "militants must be eliminated and their bodies submitted to the Russian Prosecutor General's office for identification," Ivanov added.