Russian Official Injured in Georgia Explosion

TBILISI (AP)–The commander of Russian forces in the former Soviet republic of Georgia was injured in a bomb blast Tuesday night–officials said Tuesday.

Gen. Alexander Studenikin was taken to a hospital with injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening–Georgian deputy prosecutor Kakha Koberidze said.

Koberidze said the blast occurred as the general walked to his home from the Russian troops’ headquarters in the capital Tbilisi–on territory under Russian control. He said preliminary information indicates it was set off by remote.

The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed Studenikin was injured in an explosion–the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Russia maintains two bases and about 5,000 troops in Georgia as holdovers from the Soviet era when the republic was a key element in the Kremlin’s military strategy. It has about 150 tanks–240 armored vehicles and 140 artillery pieces on the bases.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union–Russia withdrew troops from two other bases–and Georgia has been pushing for the withdrawal of the remaining two.

Moscow has said the withdrawal could take from seven to 11 years–but Georgia has pressed for complete pullout in three years.

The Georgians have been nervous that Moscow might use the bases to support the defiant leader of Ajaria–the Black Sea province which has been reluctant to cede any powers to Georgian central authorities. One of the Russian bases is located in Ajaria.

Despite the tensions over the bases–Russia-Georgian relations have shown signs of thawing since Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was elected in January–after Eduard Shevardnadze resigned under pressure of mass public protests.

Georgian Security Council secretary Vano Merabishvili said he suspects those developmen’s could be behind the bombing.

"I think that this has happened because there’s been an improvement in relations recently between Georgia and Russia and our enemies don’t like warm relations between our countries," he said.

Koberidze said the explosion would be investigated jointly by Georgian and Russian authorities.


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