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Military convoy leaves Russia's Batumi base in Georgia

RIA Novosti

15/05/2007 14:32 MOSCOW, May 15 (RIA Novosti) - A military convoy left a Russian military base in Georgia by rail early Tuesday as part of a 2006 deal on the withdrawal of Russian bases from the South Caucasus country.

The convoy, consisting of 35 carriages, is transporting 46 tracked vehicles, five armored personnel carriers, and 200 tons of ammunition from the Batumi base on the Black Sea to Russia via Azerbaijan, the Georgian Defense Ministry's press service said.

Earlier in the month, Russia withdrew a fourth military convoy from the base to a Russian base in Armenia.

More military hardware will be removed from Batumi each week until August 2007, the ministry said. According to the agreement between the countries, Russia must complete the removal of its bases in Georgia by the end of 2008.

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

The next military convoy will leave Thursday by road from the Akhalkalaki base, located in a region populated largely by ethnic Armenians, and on May 24 two further convoys will leave Akhalkalaki and Batumi.

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.

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