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Russia dismisses allegations it is building military base in Abkhazia

RIA Novosti

11/06/2007 17:14 MOSCOW/TBILISI, June 11 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Defense Ministry dismissed allegations Monday that it was building a military base in Georgia's breakaway province of Abkhazia.

Earlier in the day, the territorial integrity commission in Georgia's parliament accused Moscow of launching the construction of a new base in Abkhazia's Gali district.

"This is simply not true," ministry spokesman Vyacheslav Sedov said, adding that such a project would be in breach of international agreements, which, according to him, Moscow is committed to implementing.

Russia's continued military presence has been a major point of controversy in its relations with post-Soviet Georgia. The leadership of the South Caucasus nation has repeatedly accused Russian authorities of providing support for separatists in the Georgian provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Tbilisi is determined to bring back under its control.

Russia has closed a Soviet-era Gudauta base in Abkhazia, as envisaged by an agreement signed in 1999 at an Istanbul summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

It has also removed its military garrison from the capital Tbilisi, and is now withdrawing personnel and hardware from bases in the Black Sea port of Batumi and in Akhalkalaki, in southern Georgia. Under a bilateral agreement reached in 2006, the pullout should be completed by the end of 2008.

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