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Russia formally completes pullout of its Tbilisi garrison

RIA Novosti

23/12/2006 16:06 TBILISI, December 23 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has formally completed the withdrawal of a military garrison from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, by handing over control of its headquarters to Georgia's Defense Ministry, the Russian regional military command said Saturday.

The last train convoy with equipment from the Russian garrison left Tbilisi ten days ago and the personnel pullout was completed earlier this week.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said the Tbilisi garrison would be pulled out ahead of a 2007 deadline after Georgia had briefly detained four Russian military officers on spying charges in September.

Thirteen of the garrison's 387 personnel will remain in Georgia to oversee the withdrawal of Russia's two Soviet-era bases, in the southern town of Akhalkalaki and in the Black Sea port of Batumi.

Georgia's Western-leaning leadership, which seeks to join NATO, is uneasy about Russia's continued military presence, and has repeatedly urged Moscow to close its Soviet-era bases.

Under a bilateral agreement signed in March 2006 and ratified by Russia's parliament in October, the pullouts from the bases in Akhalkalaki and Batumi are to be completed by October 1, 2007, and October 1, 2008, respectively.

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