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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 November 2007, 10:13 GMT
Russia troops 'quit Georgia base'
Russian troops have lunch at a base in Georgia. File photo
Russia's military presence has long been controversial
Russia says its troops have left their last base in Georgia, removing a source of friction between the two neighbours.

A final convoy left its base in Batumi, Georgia, and crossed into Armenia at about 2000 GMT on Wednesday, a senior Russian military officer said.

So far there has been no confirmation of the move from Georgia.

Russian peacekeepers still remain in Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Tbilisi wants them to be replaced by international troops.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has accused Moscow of supporting separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia - a charge Moscow denies.

Russia says it has no more bases in Georgia. But Georgia says it has no proof that a base in Gudauta, Abkhazia, has been vacated because the region is under the control of separatist rebels.

The West has been demanding Russia vacate all its bases in Georgia and in Moldova before it signs an amended treaty limiting conventional forces in Europe.

Russia's parliament earlier this month voted to suspend its compliance with the treaty, which had been ratified by Moscow.

'Air raids'

"There are no more Russian troops in Georgia," Gen Alexei Maslov, commander of Russian ground troops, was quoted as saying by Russian media.


"There remain only peacekeepers... in Abkhazia, and those that are part of the combined forces in South Ossetia with the participation of Georgia," the general added.

Igor Konashenkov, Gen Maslov's aide, told Russia's Ria Novosti agency that the last convoy of troops and equipment left Russia's base in Batumi, south-western Georgia, on Wednesday night and later crossed into Armenia.

Officials in Tbilisi have so far not commented on the reports from Moscow.

If confirmed, the move comes nearly a year earlier than the agreed closure of the Soviet-era Batumi base.

Another two Russian military bases in Georgia - at Tbilisi and Akhakalakai - were shut down in the last two years.

Relations between Russia and Georgia have been deeply strained in recent months.

Georgia, which seeks a Nato membership, has claimed that Russian warplanes on several occasions violated its airspace and even dropped a missile that did not explode.

Moscow denies the accusations, describing Tbilisi's claims as provocation.

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