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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 March, 2005, 20:56 GMT
Georgia MPs oppose Russian troops
By Natalia Antelava
BBC News, Tbilisi

Georgian MPs debate the troop resolution
Georgian legislators say they have waited long enough
Georgian MPs have voted unanimously to outlaw Russia's military presence in the country unless Moscow withdraws its servicemen by 1 January 2006.

If Russia fails to meet the deadline, its bases will be declared illegal and the Georgian government will stop issuing entry visas to Russian troops.

Moscow warned the resolution would obstruct discussions on any compromise about the pullout of its troops.

Senior politician Boris Gryzlov said Russia should demand compensation.

Some members of Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, said Moscow should impose economic sanctions and increase tariffs on electricity exports to Georgia if the resolution was passed.

There were also objections from within Georgia.

Parliamentary speaker Nino Burjanadze and Foreign Minister Salome Zourabishvili said the resolution was untimely since both sides had already agreed to meet in May to set a new timeframe for the withdrawal.

But legislators who pushed the voting forward say Georgia has waited long enough.

'Unwelcome obstacle'

Russia agreed to remove its Soviet-era military bases in 1999.

Map showing location of Georgia and its provinces
But since then Moscow has continuously extended the deadline, saying it needs years and millions of dollars to remove the troops.

Recently Moscow has come under increased pressure, not only from Tbilisi but also from Washington, which supports Georgia's demand for the Russian pullout.

Many in Georgia see the Russian military presence not only as an unwelcome reminder of the country's Soviet past, but also as an obstacle to Georgia's pro-Western course and its aspirations to join Nato.

Georgia's forgotten conflict
03 Jul 03 |  Europe

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