A United Nations envoy on mission to Sukhumi, Georgia, has urged both Abkhaz and Georgian leaders to address the climate of violence that led to the deaths of nine passengers on board a UN helicopter on Monday.
Dieter Boden, Secretary-General Kofi Annan's Special Representative for Georgia, today left Sukhumi after holding talks with Abkhaz leaders. Following his return to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, the envoy said he had urged both the Abkhaz and Georgian sides to safeguard the security of UN personnel.
The UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) confirmed that the UN helicopter had been hit at the entrance of the Kodori Valley by a rocket on Monday, shortly after taking off from Sukhumi. All nine passengers - four UN military observers, a technician and interpreter working with the Mission, and a three-member Ukrainian flight crew - were killed.
"The barbaric act of shooting down a UN helicopter with unarmed military observers marks a new phase in the degradation of the conflict," UNOMIG said in a statement, adding that those responsible for the attack must be brought to justice.