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Russia scales down plans for troops in Abkhazia, S.Ossetia


MOSCOW, May 19 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will deploy fewer personnel at military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia than previously planned, a first deputy defense minister said on Tuesday.

"We have no reason to deploy all [the planned] personnel at military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Part of the contingent could be deployed in Russia [close to the border]," Col. Gen. Alexander Kolmakov said.

He added, though, that the composition and the structure of military contingents at the bases "would be comparable to a brigade-level unit."

Russia's Defense Ministry has said it plans to open one base in Gudauta, in the west of Abkhazia, and another in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, to be fully operational by the end of 2010.

The ministry also said earlier it would deploy 3,700 personnel at each of its bases in the two Caucasus republics, recognized by Russia last year as independent states.

Kolmakov said on Tuesday that Russia was in talks with Abkhazia and S. Ossetia on the transfer of land for the construction of company-level training grounds, which would be used for the training of personnel deployed at the Russian bases.

However, larger-scale exercises, involving personnel from bases in Abkhazia and S. Ossetia, will be conducted in Russia, the general said.

"The battalion-level and larger exercises involving artillery will be held at training grounds in Russia's North Caucasus military district," Kolmakov said.

Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states on August 26 last year after a five-day war with Georgia, which began when Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia to try to regain control of the region.

Friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance treaties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia were signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last November.

Under the pacts, Russia has pledged to help the republics protect their borders, and the signatories have granted each other the right to set up military bases in their respective territories.

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