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Fourth military convoy leaves Russian base in Georgia

RIA Novosti

04/05/2007 12:53 MOSCOW, May 4 (RIA Novosti) - The fourth military convoy left a Russian military base in Georgia Friday as part of a 2006 deal on the withdrawal of Russian military bases from the South Caucasus country.

The military convoy, consisting of nine trucks escorted by Georgian military police, left the Akhalkalaki base in the south of the country heading for Gyumri in neighboring Armenia, where Russia retains Military Base 102.

The start of railway transfers is scheduled for mid-May.

The Akhalkalaki base located in a region populated largely by ethnic Armenians is to be completely evacuated before the end of the year, while the base in the Black Sea port of Batumi is to close by the end of 2008.

Russia completed the withdrawal of its military garrison from the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, handing over control of its headquarters to Georgia's Defense Ministry, last December.

Thirteen of the garrison's 387 personnel will remain in Georgia overseeing the withdrawal of Russia's two Soviet-era bases.

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

All in all, Russia has agreed to dispatch five truck convoys and 10 trains to withdraw the remaining equipment from the Akhalkalaki base by the yearend.

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