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Russia to cut troops in Abkhazia, S.Ossetia - General Staff

Russia's military is planning to cut the number of troops deployed at military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the chief of the Russian General Staff said on Wednesday.

LE BOURGET (Paris), June 17 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's military is planning to cut the number of troops deployed at military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the chief of the Russian General Staff said on Wednesday.

"The number of Russian troops deployed at these bases will be somewhat reduced, since the initially announced number is perhaps too large," Gen. Nikolai Makarov said at the Paris Air Show.

The General Staff had said earlier it would deploy 3,700 troops in each South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"Our [Russian] troops are stationed there to stabilize the situation in the region and protect the territorial integrity of new independent states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Therefore, the military contingent there will not be too big," he said.

Under mutual assistance treaties signed last November, Russia pledged to help Abkhazia and South Ossetia protect their borders, and the signatories granted each other the right to set up military bases in their respective territories.

The high-ranking military official also said that the schedule for establishing two Russian military bases in the former Georgian republics remained as initially specified.

"By the end of this year we must completely staff our bases. We are creating only two - one in Abkhazia's Gudauta [district] and another in South Ossetia near its capital, Tskhinvali. They may extend over several residential areas, but there will only be two bases," Makarov said.

However, the general reiterated that despite Russia's calls to the international community to preserve the stability in the region, Georgia is still building up its military to solve its territorial issues by means of force.

"Georgia continues its saber rattling and has not abandoned its attempts to solve the issue by any means," he said, adding that Russia wanted more information from international observers on Georgia's military activity.

"As to the international observers working on Georgian territory, we have many questions for them about their activity as the Georgian army continues to arm, with quite a number of posts on the border with South Ossetia and Abkhazia whose operation is not a stabilizing factor," Makarov said.

Last month, Georgia held military drills with NATO involving officers from 13 military alliance's countries and allies and up to 1,000 troops, provoking strong criticism from Moscow.

President Dmitry Medvedev called the NATO drills in Georgia "an open provocation" and said the exercises were assisting Georgia's rearmament after last year's conflict with Russia over South Ossetia.

However, Tbilisi said Georgia has the right to hold any military exercises on its territory as a sovereign state, and the current NATO exercises were a necessary ingredient to attain Georgia's major goal of integration with the North Atlantic alliance.

Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia last August after a five-day war with Georgia over the latter, which was attacked by Tbilisi in an attempt to bring it back under central control. Most residents of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia had held Russian citizenship for several years.

Makarov said that Georgian weaponry seized during the conflict would not be used by the Russian army, but was being tested to increase knowledge of Georgian and Western armaments.


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