Between September 20 and September 23, 1993, during the War in Abkhazia between Georgian government forces and Abkhaz separatists, five civilian airliners belonging to Transair Georgia and Orbi Georgian Airways were destroyed.

In an attempt to stop the Georgian government from resupplying its troops by flying goods into Sukhumi Babushara Airport (SUI), Abkhazia forces attacked the airport.

The attacks took place over three days

The first two planes, both Tupolev Tu-134As that belonged to Orbi Georgian Airways were attacked and destroyed by small arms fire on September 20, 1993. A day later, on September 21, a Transair Tu-134A-3 flying from Sochi International Airport (AER) to Sukhumi Airport when a Strela 2 surface-to-air missile hit the plane.

Aboard the 18-year-old plane were captain Geras Georgievich Tabuev, first officer Otar Grigorievich Shengelia, and navigator Sergey Alexandrovich Shah. The flight had two cabin crew and 22 passengers, primarily journalists, flying in to cover the war.

Route maps of the planes

The routes the planes were flying before being attacked. Image: GCmaps

While at an altitude of 980 while on its final approach into Sukhumi-Babusheri Airport (SUI), the aircraft was hit by a shoulder-fired missile. The plane then crashed into the Black Sea, killing all 27 passengers and crew.

A Tu-154 was hit with missiles

On September 22, 1993, a 17-year-old Orbi Georgian Airways Tu-154B aircraft was flying from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to Sukhumi-Babusheri Airport (SUI). Packed with civilians and some Georgian security forces, the plane was struck by surface-to-air missiles while on final approach.

The aircraft captain managed to crash-land the plane on the runway, but it caught fire, killing 108 of the 132 passengers and crew. Following the crash, the Georgian media claimed that the aircraft was carrying refugees, but there is no evidence to back this up. Later in the day, another Tu-154 arriving at the airport came under attack but managed to land safely.

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Aeroflot Tupolev Tu-134

On September 23, 1993, passengers were boarding an 18-year-old Transair Tu-134A for a 213-mile flight from SUI to Tbilisi International Airport (TBS). As they were getting on the plane, a Grad rocket hit the aircraft setting it on fire. One crew member was killed, but the remaining crew and passengers were unharmed.

On the same day, a second ORBI Tu-154 was reportedly hit by either mortar or artillery fire and was completely destroyed.

The conflict remains quiet but is ongoing

Seen as resulting from the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Abkhaz–Georgian conflict was between Georgia and separatists in Abkhazia. The Georgian government has offered substantial autonomy to Abkhazia on many occasions. Still, the Abkhazia government wants nothing to do with Georgia and is a de facto independent country.

The conflict lasted for 13 months before a ceasefire brokered by Russia was signed in Sochi. Despite both sides agreeing to abide by the terms of the truce, it was doomed to fail, and hostilities flared up once more in April 1998. After numerous casualties and 20,000 Georgians becoming refugees, the Russians brokered a second ceasefire in May.

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SUI airport aerial view

Since then, there have been flare-ups in the fighting over the years, with the Russian Federation officially recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states on August 26, 2008. In response, the Georgian government cut all diplomatic ties with Russia.

Other countries not allied with Russia recognize the two breakaway regions as occupied territories that belong to Georgia.


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