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Russia denies deployment of S-300 missiles in South Ossetia

RIA Novosti

17:21 25/08/2010

MOSCOW, August 25 (RIA Novosti) - There is no truth to the Georgian Foreign Minister's statement that Russia has deployed S-300 air defense systems in South Ossetia, a source in the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday.

"There are no Russian S-300 systems on the territory of South Ossetia. There is no need for it," the source said.

"The protection of the Russian military base as well as South Ossetia is carried out by Buk air defense systems," the source said, adding that the former Georgian republic's landscape would restrict the deployment of S-300 systems.

Earlier on Wednesday, Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said Russia had deployed S-300 systems in South Ossetia.

"Russia has deployed S-300s in the occupied Abkhazia... I assure you that while Russia has not announced this yet, the Russian S-300s are also deployed in the Tskhinvali region," he said.

South Ossetian Defense Minister Valery Yakhnovets also refuted the statement. He said South Ossetia has no need for S-300s "at the present time."

Russian Air Force commander-in-chief Col. Gen. Alexander Zelin said on August 11 Russia had deployed S-300 systems in Abkhazia - a statement that angered Georgia but failed to surprise the U.S. State Department which said the systems appeared to have been in place for the last two years.

"It is our understanding that Russia has had S-300 missiles in Abkhazia for the last two years... We can't confirm whether they have added to them or not," Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in August 2008 after winning a brief war with Georgia over South Ossetia.

Russia signed agreements with Abkhazia and South Ossetia 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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