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Train carrying 500 Russian peacekeepers arrives in Abkhazia

RIA Novosti

18/12/2007 15:06 MOSCOW, December 18 (RIA Novosti) - A train carrying 500 Russian peacekeepers has arrived in Abkhazia, Georgia's breakaway republic, as part of a scheduled rotation of the Russian peacekeeping contingent.

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 separatist republic of Abkhazia.

"At 9.30 a.m. Moscow Time (6.30 a.m. GMT) a train carrying 500 servicemen from the 15th peacekeeping brigade arrived at the Ochamchira station [on the Black Sea coast of Abkhazia]," a spokesman for the Russian ground forces said.

The new personnel from the Volga-Urals Military District motorized rifle division will replace the present contingent in the northern part of the security zone and in the lower Kodori Gorge, controlled by Abkhazia.

The rotation is expected to be completed by December 23, and no additional military equipment is due to be transported into the conflict zone.

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 a 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. 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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