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Russia continues rotation of peacekeepers in Abkhazia

RIA Novosti

14/12/2007 14:35 MOSCOW, December 14 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is sending 500 peacekeepers to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone as part of a scheduled rotation of its peacekeeping contingent in the area, a Ground Forces spokesman said Friday.

The rotation is in line with a May 1994 ceasefire agreement, as well as a mandate on the peacekeeping operation in the conflict zone between Georgia and its breakaway republic of Abkhazia.

"A train carrying 500 personnel from the peacekeeping brigade will depart [from Samara in the Volga Region] on December 14," Colonel Igor Konashenkov said, adding that no additional military equipment would be transported into the conflict zone.

The rotation is expected to be completed by December 22, the official said.

According to Russian military sources, the peacekeeping brigade currently deployed in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, mostly in the Kodori Gorge area, totals about 3,000 personnel.

On December 10, Russia completed the first stage of the planned rotation by sending 600 peacekeepers into the conflict zone.

Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia following a bloody conflict that left hundreds dead in 1991-1992, and the CIS Peacekeeping Forces entered the conflict area in June 1994 under the ceasefire agreement signed in Moscow on May 14, 1994.

More than 100 Russian peacekeepers have been killed in the conflict zone since then.

There have been frequent and mutual accusations of ceasefire violations from both Abkhazia and Georgia, whose President Mikheil Saakashvili has vowed to regain control of the region. Peace talks broke off when Tbilisi sent troops into Kodori Gorge in July last year and established an alternative Abkhaz administration there.

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