Georgia Russia Agree on Closure of Two Bases

MOSCOW (RFE/RL)–During talks in Moscow on Friday–Georgian and Russian government delegations headed by Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili and Deputy Premier Ilya Klebanov confirmed that Russia will vacate the Vaziani military base near Tbilisi by July 1 as earlier agreed.

Russian military spokesman Aleksandr Lutskevich denied Georgian press allegations that the departing Russian troops deliberately damaged or destroyed facilities at that base before departure.

But while Klebanov affirmed on Friday that Russian troops will also leave the Gudauta base in Abkhazia by the July 1 deadline–the commander of Russia’s airborne troops–Colonel General Georgii Shpak–said the following day that the airborne troops at Gudauta may not be able to leave until "later–possibly by the end of the summer," because of the ongoing blockade of the base by local Abkhaz and Russia’s and because Georgia cannot guarantee the security of arms transported on Abkhaz territory.

The Russian and Georgian delegations failed–however–to agree on a time frame for the Russian withdrawal from two further bases at Batumi and Akhalkalaki–Georgian and Russian agencies reported. Georgia insists that Russia’should pull out in three to four years–while Moscow says this is not economically feasible and wants to extend the period over 13-14 years.

Russia also demanded during Friday’s talks that Georgia make a formal commitment not to allow NATO or other countries to use the bases after the departure of the Russian troops. Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman Kakha Sikharulidze said on Saturday that Tbilisi will do so.

Georgians forced to flee their homes in Abkhazia during the 1992-1993 hostilities have threatened civil disobedience if the Russian forces fail to comply with the July 1 deadline to vacate the Gudauta base–Caucasus Press reported on Friday–citing "Akhali taoba." They argue that as long as the Russian troops remain in Gudauta they will be unable to return to their homes.


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