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31 May, 2008 11:12

Georgia accuses Russia of plotting Abkhazia invasion

The Georgian government has accused Russia of planning a military invasion of its breakaway republic of Abkhazia. It follows the arrival of 300 Russian railway troops in the region to repair a stretch of track. They were sent after a request from the Abkh

Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, said the deployment was: “another aggressive step against the territorial integrity of Georgia.”

“There is no doubt that Russia is building up military infrastructure in preparation for military intervention,” Vashadze said.

“Without the Georgian government's consent and agreement, the Russian Federation introduced railway troops to our territory and not only railway troops. Those railway troops are backed up by troops which can restore roads and bridges,” he added.

Moscow has rejected the claims. The head of the Defence Ministry’s press service, Aleksandr Drobyshevsky, said the track repair is being carried out as part of Putin’s decision to give humanitarian aid to the republic.

“Following an appeal from the Abkhazian government, work is currently underway to restore railway tracks and infrastructure. It is being done by units and special hardware from Russia's railway troops, without any arms,” Drobyshevsky said.

Abkhazia also maintains the project is purely economic and has nothing to do with the situation in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone.

Tbilisi, however, sees the move as an “aggressive step” and is threatening to restart reconnaissance flights over the area.

On Friday Georgia promised the UN to suspend unmanned spy flights over its breakaway region.

The railroad was wrecked by the Georgian military during the war between Abkhazia and Georgia in the nineties.

Abkhazia unilaterally declared independence from Georgia in 1992, although it was not recognised internationally.

A military reporter from Russia’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper, Viktor Litovkin, doesn't believe the row will lead to another military conflict. He blames Georgia for increasing tensions in the region to attract NATO's attention.  

“Georgia has already had elections, won by the ruling party and Saakashvili. Today, there is no reason to escalate tensions,” he said.  

He says Georgia is trying to portray itself as a victim of Russian aggression, to push NATO into defending it.

“However, NATO countries are not that eager to intervene on behalf of Georgia, as there are many other conflicts in the world that are much more pressing than the issue of Georgia,” Litovkin added.