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Russia justifies deploying S-300 missile systems in Abkhazia

RIA Novosti

17:00 13/08/2010

MOSCOW, August 13 (RIA Novosti) - The deployment of S-300 air defense systems in Abkhazia is not a violation of Russia's international obligations, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

"As to the S-300, this air defense system is an integral part of military equipment deployed at our military base in Abkhazia, which is intended solely for defensive purposes," ministry spokesman Andrey Nesterenko said.

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

"Its deployment cannot destabilize the situation in the region and does not violate Russia's international obligations," Nesterenko said.

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

Nesterenko reiterated on Friday that the military cooperation between Russia and the two former Georgia republics was transparent and based on bilateral agreements to counter potential threats to their security and ensure stability in the region.

"The urgency of this cooperation is obvious in light of the tragic events of August 2008 and

Tbilisi's continuing efforts to take revenge [on the two republics]," the official said.

Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia two days after the brief conflict with Georgia, 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.

On Wednesday, the Georgian Foreign Ministry described Russia's actions as "extremely dangerous and provocative," saying it threatened "not only the Black Sea region, but European security as a whole."

Washington later downplayed the Russian move by saying that the move was not a new development as Moscow had been deploying S-300 missiles in Abkhazia for the past two years.

A Kremlin source confirmed on Friday that the S-300 systems were deployed in Abkhazia two years ago and Russia informed its foreign partners about the deployment.

"We merely changed the location of their deployment," the source said.

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