Page last updated at 09:02 GMT, Thursday, 1 May 2008 10:02 UK

Russia beefs up Abkhazia forces

Map of Georgia

Extra Russian troops are now being deployed in Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region, Russia says.

The defence ministry said the fresh units were joining peacekeeping troops in the Tkvarcheli district, in line with an existing peace accord.

The statement, quoted by Itar-Tass news agency, did not say how many extra troops were being deployed.

Nato has accused Russia of increasing tension in Abkhazia, where separatists broke away from Georgia in the 1990s.

Russia has kept a peacekeeping force in Abkhazia and another breakaway region, South Ossetia, under an agreement made following the wars of the early 1990s.

Russia is known to have about 2,000 troops already in Abkhazia, and about 1,000 in South Ossetia.

Moscow has accused Georgia of preparing to invade Abkhazia. Earlier, Georgia condemned Russia's decision to forge closer ties with the separatist authorities there.

"The steps that have been taken [by Russia] and the rhetoric have increased tensions and undermined Georgia's territorial integrity," Nato spokesman James Appathurai said on Wednesday.

He urged both Moscow and Tbilisi to avoid harsh rhetoric.

Russia said Georgia was massing 1,500 soldiers and police in the upper Kodori Gorge, the only part of Abkhazia which remains under government control.

Georgia denies any build-up of its own forces in the area, and says that Russia is taking provocative action.

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