NATO helps Georgia restore air defenses, ups Black Sea presence

NATO is helping to restore Georgia's air defenses and has deployed 10 warships in the Black Sea, with another eight expected soon, the deputy chief of the Russian General Staff said Tuesday.

"Measures are being taken with assistance from NATO experts to create facilities for airspace control and to restore airfields," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said.

He also expressed bewilderment at the "increased activity of NATO's naval forces... in the Black Sea."

According to the information at the disposal of the General Staff, there are three U.S. warships, the Polish frigate General Pulaski, the German frigate FGS Lubeck, and the Spanish navy ship Admiral Juan de Borbon, as well as four Turkish vessels in the Black Sea.

A Russian military intelligence source said Monday the NATO warships carried over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles and Harpoon anti-ship missiles between them.

Nogovitsyn said that vessels from Russia's Black Sea Fleet had been deployed near the port of Sukhumi in Abkhazia, Georgia's rebel region, in connection with the withdrawal of Russian troops from the conflict zone.

"The Russian Black Sea Fleet continues providing security in the waters of the Black Sea near the shore of Abkhazia," he said, adding that the Russian military had seized maps detailing Georgian plans for a 24-hour attack on its separatist region.

He announced that Russia's Moskva missile cruiser, which left its Sevastopol base on Monday, would return late Tuesday after undergoing weaponry and communications tests.

Russia leases the Sevastopol base from Ukraine under a deal signed in 1997.

[Source: Novosti, Moscow, 26Aug08]

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