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Georgia accuses Russia of plans to invade Abkhazia

RIA Novosti

31/05/2008 16:05 TBILISI, May 31 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia's Foreign Ministry accused Russia on Saturday of plotting a military invasion of its breakaway region of Abkhazia following reports that units of the Russian Railroad Troops entered Abkhazia to help rebuild its railroad infrastructure.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that In accordance with the Russian president's decree on humanitarian aid to Abkhazia and a request by the Abkhazian authorities, units from the Russian Railroad Troops and special non-military equipment have been dispatched to rebuild railroads and infrastructure in the self-proclaimed republic.

"There is no need to send troops to rebuild railroads, unless the preparation for military intervention is under way," Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said at a news briefing in Tbilisi.

He dismissed the Russian statement and said Moscow had not consulted with Tbilisi on the subject.

"We consider this move as another aggressive step against territorial integrity of Georgia," Vashadze said. "There is no doubt that Russia is building up military infrastructure [in Abkhazia] in preparation for military intervention."

Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vyacheslav Kovalenko will be summoned to the country's Foreign Ministry over the incident and handed an official protest note, the diplomat said.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another breakaway region in Georgia, have been a source of tensions between Russia and Georgia, with Tbilisi accusing Moscow of backing separatism on its sovereign territory.

Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have drastically deteriorated since Russia's former president Vladimir Putin called for closer ties between Moscow and the two breakaway republics in mid-April.

Georgia has accused Russia of trying to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while Moscow says Tbilisi is planning to invade Abkhazia.

Bilateral relations saw a new low this week when the Georgian Foreign Ministry demanded that Russia give an official apology and pay compensation following the alleged shooting down of an unmanned reconnaissance drone by a Russian aircraft in April.

Ex-Soviet breakaway regions have stepped up their drive for independence since Kosovo's declaration of independence on February 17. Abkhazia and South Ossetia, along with Moldova's Transdnestr, have since asked Russia's parliament, the United Nations and other organizations to recognize their independence.

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