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Russian Air Force commander backs idea of Abkhazia military base

RIA Novosti

15/05/2008 15:28 MOSCOW, May 15 (RIA Novosti) - The creation of a Russian military base in Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia would increase the security of Russia's borders in the region, Russia's Air Force commander said on Thursday.

Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh proposed on Wednesday that Russia open a military base on its territory.

"If a corresponding political decision is made, it will only be to the benefit of air defense," Colonel-General Alexander Zelin said.

On Wednesday Georgia's Foreign Ministry announced its withdrawal from a 1995 CIS unified air defense agreement signed by a number of former Soviet republics, including Russia.

Zelin also reiterated that Russian military aircraft never shot down a Georgian surveillance drone over the territory of the unrecognized republic.

"I can once again confirm that Russian Air Force planes never participated in this incident," he said.

On April 20, Georgia accused Russia of shooting down a drone over Abkhazia, a claim Russia flatly denied, calling the video footage provided by Georgia a fake.

Abkhazia claims its air defenses had shot down seven Georgian surveillance drones this year, one on May 8, two on March 18 and April 20, two on May 4 and further two on May 12.

Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have drastically deteriorated since the Kremlin called for closer ties between Moscow and the two Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in mid-April.

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