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Subject: Russia Throws A Monkey Wrench into Georgia
Phoenix Rising    4/12/2002 11:11:19 PM
TBILISI - Russian helicopters landed dozens of heavily-armed troops in a remote gorge in Georgia on Friday, sparking a diplomatic showdown just weeks before U.S. military instructors were due to arrive in the ex-Soviet state. Moscow said it had sent forces to the Kodori gorge, a mountainous no-man's land on the edge of Georgia's rebel Abkhazia region, to help maintain security for Russian and U.N. observers under an agreement brokered earlier this month. But Georgia said there was no mention of armed Russian troops in the agreement, and warned its forces would shoot if the Russians did not leave. "We gave the Russians an ultimatum: these helicopters should quietly leave the Kodori gorge, or we will open fire," Defence Minister David Tevzadze told reporters in the Black Sea port of Poti, where he was overseeing military exercises. President Eduard Shevardnadze left for the gorge and said he could demand the end of a Russian peacekeeping mission in his country. "I am going there to deal with the situation. If what they are telling me is true, then we will say goodbye to the Russian peacekeepers," he told Reuters before boarding a helicopter. Russia's NTV television showed footage of heavily armed Russian peacekeepers in blue helmets carrying supplies and taking up positions near the mountain village of Azhara. A spokesman for the Russian force, wearing camouflage body armour, told the station his troops were there "above all to guarantee the security of the local population...and set up joint patrols of the CIS peacekeepers and U.N. observers". U.S. INSTRUCTORS EXPECTED The Russian deployment comes ahead of the arrival of the U.S. instructors, on a mission to provide Georgia with counter-terrorism training and arms. Georgia's Abkhaz rebels say the U.S. military aid could tip the balance against them in their decade-long conflict with Tbilisi, and have called for Russian backing. Moscow seethed at news earlier this year that the U.S. instructors were coming to Georgia, although President Vladimir Putin later withdrew Russia's objections, acknowledging Moscow could do nothing to prevent the American deployment. Russia maintains a peacekeeping force in Abkhazia under the umbrella of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States and the United Nations has a small, unarmed observer team there. The Kodori gorge on Abkhazia's edge was to be demilitarised after Georgia's 1992-93 war in Abkhazia, but Georgia sent troops last October after a Chechen warlord turned up there. Georgia agreed to withdraw its troops on April 2. Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement the Kodori post, to be manned by 78 troops, was being set up "in the context of fulfilling the Georgia-Abkhaz protocol of April 2". That protocol called for the withdrawal of Georgian forces from the gorge and for joint U.N.-CIS observer patrols, but made no mention of an armed Russian force, Georgian Defence Ministry spokeswoman Nino Sturua told Reuters.
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Phoenix Rising    RE:Russia Throws A Monkey Wrench into Georgia   4/12/2002 11:12:45 PM
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Vympel    RE:Russia Throws A Monkey Wrench into Georgia   4/13/2002 9:47:07 AM
Keep the news and thoughts coming thanks :)
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