Last Russian military pulled out from Georgia

Russia is handing back its last military base in Georgia to that country’s government. Both governments have signed the respective documents at a ceremony at the coastal city of Batumi.

Over 200 years of Russian military presence in Georgia come to an end.

Initially the Batumi base was to be handed over in autumn 2008, but the date changed after recent tension in Georgia and a diplomatic row between the countries.

This base, and another in Southern Javakhetia on the border with Armenia, were established in 1993 when Georgia joined the CIS. Russia promised to withdraw from the bases in 1999, as part of the Istanbul agreements.

Since 2000, President Saakashvili and his predecessor Eduard Shevardnadze have pushed for their withdrawal, branding them as 'destabilising forces'.

On November 12 Georgia expelled three Russian diplomats after accusing Russia of being behind the country's recent unrest and interfering in Georgian internal affairs – a charge Moscow has dismissed.

Major General Andrey Popov, the head of the Batumi base, also denied any connection between the troop withdrawal and the recent political developments in Georgia.

“Of course the political situation had some influence on our presence in Georgia, but the Commandment had decided to withdraw all the bases earlier this year,” said Mr. Popov.

Meanwhile, the Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, Yury Baluevsky says Georgia spends $US 820 million on its defence per annum.

“The question remains – why and who is helping Georgia? I wouldn’t like to voice it, but we all understand that someone benefits from worsening the situation at our southern frontier,” he said.

Another Russian base – in Akhalkalaki, in southern Georgia – was handed back in June 2007.

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