Russia Plans to Keep Grip on Poti, Senaki

A Russian army map outlining planned Russian troop deployment in Georgia shows they have no intention of giving up control of Senaki or the port town of Poti.

In Moscow, Anatoly Nogovitsin, the deputy chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, showed the map, saying it detailed what he said would be "the zone of responsibility" of Russian "peacekeepers."

It includes checkpoints in Nabada, just outside Poti, and in Senaki, a town less than 40 kilometers from Poti.

A key Georgian military base and strategic airfield are located in Senaki.

"The airfield in Senaki is also part of the zone of responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers," Nogovitsin said.

On the eastern front, in the South Ossetian conflict zone the Russian troops’ "zone of responsibility" includes areas south of the South Ossetian administrative border. The zone even includes some portions of Georgia’s major east-west highway – in particular, the villages of Shavshvebi and Agara. The town of Gori itself is not in the zone.

"Our forces will be pulled back to these zones of responsibility today," Nogovitsin said.

Russian forces started removing checkpoints and roadblocks from some locations deep inside Georgian territories, including from Gori and Igoeti. But there was no sign of a Russian troop withdrawal from the entrance of Poti.

"We will not accept this and the world will not let Russian forces to increase their zone activity deep inside Georgian territory," Davit Kezerashvili, the Georgian defense minister, said on August 22.

It also emerged on August 22 that Russia plans to keep 2,142 soldiers in Abkhazia, in addition to existing peacekeeping forces.

Nogovitsin said that 109 armored personnel carriers (APC) – BTR-80s and BTR-70s; fourteen APCs of the BTR-R145 type and four armored patrol vehicles – BRDM, as well as 34 mortar launchers will also remain in Abkhazia. The military units in Abkhazia, he said, would also be supported by two Mi-24 combat helicopters and two Mi-8 helicopters.

[Source: Civil Georgian, Tbilisi, 22Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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