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Russia Gives Some Details on Troop Increase in Abkhazia
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 8 May.'08 / 11:50

Russia has increased the number of its peacekeepers in Abkhazia to 2,542 peacekeepers, which is 458 short of the 3,000 limit set by agreement, the Russian Ministry of Defense said in a statement on May 8.

It said before the recent deployment, there had been 1,997 Russian servicemen in the conflict zone.

Until now the Russians had been refusing to release details of last week's troop increases.

The Russian MoD warned that it would send even more soldiers - but within the agreed limits - if the Georgian side continued, what the MoD called, “a further military build-up” in the region.

The August 22, 1994 decision of CIS heads of state reads that the number of peacekeepers in the Abkhaz conflict zone should be 2,500-3,000.

“It [the increase in troop numbers] has only one goal – to maintain peace and avoid bloodshed,” the Russian MoD said in the statement.

It also said that the Russian side had notified the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) about the move. It maintained that the chief UN military observer on the ground “has agreed that the Russian actions did not contradict basic agreements on the peacekeeping operation.”

“Today Russian peacekeepers continue to fulfill their tasks, acting in accordance with the mandate of the CIS peacekeeping forces and international norms. They have proven the necessity of their presence in the conflict zone,” the Russian MoD said, citing the UN Security Council’s April resolution, which notes “an important stabilizing role” of the Russian peacekeeping forces stationed in Abkhazia under the CIS aegis. 

The Russian MoD also said that “precipitated statements of short-sighted politicians” about the need to replace Russian peacekeepers “will not shatter the firmness” of Russian peacekeepers to perform their duties.

Russian news agencies reported on May 7 that the additional Russian troops were stationed in the villages of Akamara and Arasadzikh in the Ochamchire district of the breakaway region.

According to the RIA Novosti news agency, the troops were setting up “two base camps” in the villages.

The village of Arasadzikh lies to the north of the town of Ochamchire. Just to the north of the village lies Kodori ridge and beyond that is the Georgian-controlled area of upper Kodori Gorge.

Russian news agencies and online news wires also reported that 400 paratroopers were among the additional troops in Abkhazia.

They are thought to have, according to the reports, 30 airborne vehicles - BMD-2s - artillery guns and anti-aircraft systems, including ZSU-23-2s.

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