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Georgia decries Russian missile deployment in Abkhazia

RIA Novosti

21:10 11/08/2010

TBILISI, August 11 (RIA Novosti) - The Georgian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday protested the deployment of Russian S-300 air-defense systems on the territory of its former republic of Abkhazia.

Russian Air Force head Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said earlier on Wednesday S-300 systems had been placed in Abkhazia to protect the airspace of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. He did not say how many S-300s were deployed.

The ministry described the Russian move as "extremely dangerous and provocative" and threatening "not only the Black Sea region, but European security as a whole."

It said the purpose of Russia's action was "absolutely incomprehensible."

Georgian Security Council head Eka Tkeshelashvili said Russia was "further tightening its military control over Georgia."

"Instead of pulling out its troops from Georgian territory, Russia is augmenting its military control in these regions," she said.

Georgia's state minister for reintegration, Deputy Prime Minister Temur Yakobashvili, said earlier on Wednesday the deployment of S-300 systems threatened the balance of forces in the region. He said that Russia's actions were also aimed against NATO and said Georgia would protest the S-300 deployment in international organizations.

Abkhazia's foreign minister, Maxim Gvindzhia, said on Wednesday the S-300 deployment was in compliance with the current defense cooperation agreement with Russia, adding that it was necessary due to the "constant threat" coming from "Georgia and its supporters."

Valery Yakhnovets, the defense minister of South Ossetia, another former Georgian republic, said that although his country had a reliable air defense system, the deployment of an S-300 complex on its territory "would not be superfluous."

An advanced version of the S-300 system, the S-300PMU1, has a range of over 150 kilometers (over 100 miles) and can intercept missiles and aircraft at a wide range of altitudes, making it effective in warding off air and missile strikes.

Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia two weeks after a five-day war with Georgia in August 2008, which began when Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia in an attempt to bring it back under central control.

Russia signed agreements with South Ossetia and Abkhazia earlier this year on establishing permanent military bases in the republics.

The bases are located in Gudauta, on Abkhazia's Black Sea coast, and in South Ossetia's capital, Tskhinvali. Each base hosts up to 1,700 servicemen, T-62 tanks, light armored vehicles, air defense systems and a variety of aircraft.

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