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Abkhazia says Russian missile deployment 'under agreement'

RIA Novosti

18:44 11/08/2010

MOSCOW, August 11 (RIA Novosti) - The deployment of S-300 air defense systems in Abkhazia is in compliance with the current defense cooperation agreement with Russia, the foreign minister of the former Georgian republic said on Wednesday.

"The deployment of the S-300 system is part of our bilateral agreements on military cooperation," Maxim Gvindzhia said.

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.

Gvindzhia said the deployment was necessary due to the "constant threat" coming from "Georgia and its supporters."

"Therefore, we are ready for everything," he said.

Valery Yakhnovets, the defense minister of South Ossetia, another breakaway Georgian republic, said 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 also signed earlier this year agreements with South Ossetia and Abkhazia on establishing permanent Russian military bases there.

The bases are located in Gudauta, Abkhazia, 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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