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Russian S-300 systems in Abkhazia threaten regional balance of forces - Georgia

RIA Novosti

18:29 11/08/2010

TBILISI, August 11 (RIA Novosti) - The deployment of S-300 air defense systems in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia threatens the balance of forces in the region, Georgia's State Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili said on Wednesday.

The commander of the Russian Air Force, Col. Gen Alexander Zelin announced earlier on Wednesday that Russia had deployed S-300 missiles in Abkhazia to protect the airspace of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in conjunction with other air defense means deployed by the Ground Forces.

"This move primarily contradicts the cease-fire agreement [between Russia and Georgia] concluded on August 12 [2008]," Yakobashvili said in an interview with Novosti-Georgia news agency.

"The deployment of this class of air defense systems is not only aimed against Georgia, it also changes the balance of forces in the region," the Georgian minister said.

Yakobashvili added that Russia's actions were also aimed against NATO and said Georgia would protest the S-300 deployment in international organizations.

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 military 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 various aircraft.

In response to Russia's actions, Tbilisi accused Moscow of aggression and violation of international laws, severed diplomatic relations with Russia and declared Abkhazia and South Ossetia occupied territories.

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