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Tbilisi Concerned Over Russia’s Black Sea Military Drills
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 30 Mar.'13 / 12:39

The Georgian Foreign Ministry expressed “grave concern” over Russia’s snap large-scale military exercises in the Black Sea and said this action “runs contrary to the interests of stability and predictability in the European neighborhood.”

“The current drills are unscheduled, unusual and go beyond the usual location of the armed forces in the spirit of the 2011 Vienna Document on Confidence and Security-Building Measures. Neither have they represented a proportional response to an imminent threat,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said on March 29.

“Georgia is alarmed by the unexpected, provocative activity of the Russian troops, as well as by the potential use of the facilities, weaponry and/or personnel of the occupation forces of the Russian Federation within Georgia's internationally recognized borders in Abkhazia, Georgia and the Tskhinvali region, Georgia,” it said.

Georgian Defense Minister, Irakli Alasania, said on March 29 that Russia’s military exercises in the Black Sea were causing Georgia to intensify its vigilance.

Alasania, however, also added: “We do not feel a direct threat from these exercises.”

“According to information available to us at this moment, Russian troops deployed in Georgia’s occupied territories are not involved in these exercises; Georgian territorial waters have not been violated either. But the fact in itself that these exercises were not coordinated with neighboring countries is a violation of international practice,” Alasania said.

Alasania made these remarks while speaking with journalists after attending ongoing joint U.S.-Georgian military drills Agile Spirit-2013 outside Tbilisi on March 29.

The Russian Foreign Ministry criticized Agile Spirit-2013 military exercises on March 22 and said that “any foreign military assistance to Tbilisi, no matter what the motives are, complicates prospects for strengthening peace and stability in the region.”

According to the Russian Ministry of Defense about 7,000 servicemen, 250 armored vehicles, over 20 military aircraft and about 30 warships are involved in the ongoing exercises in the Black Sea.

President of the Russian Federation ordered large-scale snap military exercises in the Black Sea on March 28. His spokesman, Dmitri Peskov, said that the number of troops, involved in the drills, did not require Moscow to give a prior notice about the exercises to its neighboring countries.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry also said on March 29, that “unilateral military actions cause Georgia's special concern in the context of Russia's continued refusal to reciprocate the unilateral, legally binding non-use of force pledge made by the President of Georgia in 2010, which was re-affirmed by the Georgian Parliament in its unanimous declaration on 7 March 2013.”

Deputy Secretary General of NATO Alexander Vershbow, who is visiting Moscow, said in an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station on March 29, that ongoing military drills in the Black Sea was not a source of alarm for the NATO; he, however, also indicated that it would have been better if Moscow had informed NATO in advance.

“Exercises are normal business for militaries. NATO does regular program of exercises every year. But I think that it’s always good to have lot of transparency about exercises, the size, the scope, what’s the goal,” Vershbow said and added that he was told by the Russian officials that even the troops were supposed to be surprised by these exercises to test reaction speed.

“But I told my [Russian] colleagues: ‘you still could have told the NATO, we can keep the secret’,” Vershbow said.

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