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Abkhazia says to sign deal on Russian military bases in months


MOSCOW, January 29 (RIA Novosti) - Russia and Abkhazia will soon sign an agreement on the deployment of Russian air and naval bases in the breakaway Georgian republic, a spokesman for the Abkhazian president said on Thursday.

Russia and Abkhazia have agreed to establish a base for the Russian Black Sea Fleet at Ochamchira, a seaside town in the republic, which Russia recognizes as independent.

"The agreement is expected to be signed within the next few months. We need to iron out some technical matters," Kristian Bzhania said.

He said that the airbase, in Gudauta, would be deployed before the naval base, adding that both bases had been established in the Soviet days.

Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh said on Monday that the possibility of Georgian sabotage was a push for the republic to advance talks with Russia on a base for the Black Sea Fleet.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet currently uses a range of naval facilities in Ukraine's Crimea as part of a 1997 agreement, under which Ukraine agreed to lease the bases to Russia until 2017.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko announced last summer that Ukraine would not extend the lease of the base in the Crimean city of Sevastopol beyond 2017, and urged the Russia to start preparations for a withdrawal.

The chief of the Russian General Staff, Gen. Nikolai Makarov, said in November that the Russian military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia would be fully staffed with 3,700 personnel each by the end of 2009.

Russian media previously reported that Moscow was also looking at possible naval facilities in Yemen, Syria and Libya, among other countries. Russian military officials are also on record as saying Moscow could build up its presence in the Mediterranean to make up for the loss of Sevastopol.

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