Russians suspected in Georgia forest fire

Russians suspected in Georgia forest fire

16 September 2008

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Georgia — Georgia says it has formed a commission to investigate whether Russian soldiers purposely started a forest fire in a popular national park.

Some witnesses near the Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park said they saw a helicopter in the area on Aug. 15, only hours before Russia and Georgia signed a cease-fire halting the military conflict. Some said they saw “burning things” being dropped from the chopper onto the park, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

The Georgian government commission says it will investigate if Russia deliberately started the forest fire, which has burned 2,500 acres of old-growth forest and crippled a major tourist attraction.

“I believe that yes, (the Russians) did it,” said Revaz Enukidze, an official with Georgia’s Environment Ministry, adding he thought the fire was started “to make as much as possible the economic and moral damage before the cease-fire.”

“They know that this place is the treasure of the country,” Natia Muladze of the park’s visitor services told the Post. “Borjomi was full of Russians during the Soviet times, and they wanted to destroy the things which they could not take.”

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