MOSCOW (Reuter)–Russia’s border guards service said Thursday that one of its helicopters had come under fire from Turkey while on a routine mission in ex-Soviet Georgia and it had set up a commission to investigate.
A spokesman for the service told Itar-Tass news agency the Mi-8 helicopter sustained eight bullet holes and was forced to land near the town of Gorgozeti–125 miles southwest of the Georgian capital Tbilisi– Wednesday afternoon.
It said the chopper was on its way to pick up a sick border guard when it was attacked from the Turkish frontier town of Dzhamili. The crew and a doctor on board were not injured.
Itar-Tass quoted Russian border officials as saying the incident was a "provocation–aimed at destabilizing the situation in the Caucasus region."
Georgian border officials confirmed the shooting.
But Turkish officials in Ankara told Itar-Tass they had no knowledge of it and described the report as an "invention."
Turkish officials later revised their story Thursday saying that border forces had opened fire in the air to warn a Russian helicopter which they said violated Turkey’s border with Georgia–but denied hitting the aircraft.
"There were warning shots into the air for the Russian helicopter because it violated our border. But the helicopter was not hit," Omer Buyukkent–the governor of the northeastern province of Artvin–told Reuters.
The Turkish governor said the two sides would launch a joint investigation into the incident by October 15 at the latest.
Yevgeny Potekhin–Commander of Russian border troops in Armenia–confirmed Russian television reports Thursday that his troops had been shelled along the 14th frontier post of the Russian border from installations within Turkey.
"Yesterday at 10 p.m. Yerevan time–a detail of the 14th border post heard several shots from an automatic weapon on the Turkish-Azeri section of the border near Nakhichevan," Potekhin said in his report.