Georgia Fully Rearmed After 2008 War, Says Top Russian General

MOSCOW (AP)–Russia’s top general said Georgia had fully rearmed its military after last year’s war with Russia, news agencies reported Friday.

The comments by Gen. Nikolai Makarov were the latest in a series of increasingly belligerent accusations between Moscow and Tbilisi, leading some analysts to warn that the two sides could be gearing up for a new fight.

Makarov, chief of the Russian military’s general staff, was quoted by ITAR-Tass and Interfax as saying that Georgia now has more weaponry than it did before the August war.

“Events in Georgia have seriously changed the situation to the south of our country and in many aspects of world politics. Today the Georgian military has a greater amount of arms and equipment than it did on the moment of the beginning of the aggression last August,” Makarov was quoted as saying.

In Tbilisi, military officials refused to immediately comment on the report, because Georgian Defense Minister Vasil Sikharulidze was traveling in the United States.

The five-day war followed a buildup of tension over Russian support for the separatist regions and pro-Western Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s drive for NATO membership.

Earlier this month, Sikharulidze told AP that Russia had vastly improved communication and supply lines since last year.

Makarov also was quoted as saying that Russia’s armed forces would hold their largest military exercises in the North Caucasus since September–a move that will alarm Georgian officials.

Georgia, for its part, recently finished participating in NATO exercises held on Georgian territory, as part of its effort to eventually join the military alliance.

Russia has stubbornly opposed efforts by NATO to include former Soviet republics or former Soviet bloc nations as part of the alliance.

Since last year, Russia has been building military bases, storage facilities for supplies and roads in the two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Moscow has recognized the two regions as independent.

Georgia also maintains that 6,000 Russian troops remaining in each of the two regions is a violation of cease-fire agreements.

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