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29 Apr 2008 12:30
Georgia is preparing to invade its breakaway region of Abkhazia, Russia said on Tuesday, days after Moscow warned it would defend its Abkhaz allies if they came under attack.
“Analysis of the structure of the armed forces present in this region leads to the conclusion that a bridgehead is being prepared for the start of military operations against Abkhazia,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
It said Georgia had amassed 1 500 soldiers and police in the upper Kodori Gorge, a pocket of breakaway Abkhazia, which is controlled by Tbilisi.
Georgian officials have denied any intention of attacking Abkhazia, which broke with Tbilisi in the 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Russia’s Defence Ministry said because of increased tension, it was obliged to strengthen its peacekeeping contingent in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a second Georgian rebel region.
“This turn of events has given rise to the need for a forced increase in the Russian armed forces peacekeeping contingent in the conflict zones, within the limits set by ... international agreements,” RIA news agency quoted the ministry as saying in a statement.
The Russian allegations of a Georgian force build-up were dismissed in Tbilisi.
“We don’t have our [Defence Ministry) forces in Kodori Gorge at all, but Interior Ministry forces are present,” said Batu Kutelia, Georgia’s Deputy Defence Minister.
“All recent UN monitoring missions confirmed that Georgia is behaving in this region in accordance with previous agreements.
What we have there are only police forces to ensure security for the local population,” he said.—Reuters
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