MOSCOW, May 1: Extra Russian troops deployed on Thursday in the Georgian separatist zone of Abkhazia, despite Georgia’s objections and concern in Nato, news agencies quoted the Russian Defence Ministry as saying.The soldiers “are completing their deployment at their positions in the Tkvarcheli district of Abkhazia,” Russia’s three main news agencies quoted the ministry press office as saying.

The troops were setting up camp, defences and communications, the ITAR-TASS, RIA Novosti and Interfax agencies said.

There was no immediate information about how many extra troops had been sent to bolster the force of more than 2,000 peacekeepers already deployed under accords ending the separatist war between Georgia and the Abkhaz minority in the early 1990s.

The Russian Defence Ministry stressed that the total number “does not exceed the numerical limits agreed under international agreements,” the agencies reported.

But Georgia’s foreign ministry said the troop increase violated a 1994 agreement that requires Russia to obtain Georgian consent before deploying additional troops in Abkhazia or establishing new positions.

“The build-up of Russian troops in Abkhazia, Georgia, is an extremely dangerous provocation, which increases the risk of escalation to an alarming extent and poses a serious threat to international peace and security,” the ministry said in a statement released late on Wednesday.

It said Georgia considered the move an “infringement of Georgia’s territorial integrity” and “interference in its internal affairs.” Tkvarcheli is an area near the Kodori Gorge, a forested mountain valley controlled at one end by the Abkhaz rebels, who have close links to Russia, and at the other by Georgians.

Moscow announced the extra deployment in response to what it said were Georgian plans to launch an assault on Abkhazia from the Kodori Gorge.

Georgia’s pro-western government has rejected the accusation and accuses Russia of annexing the rebel territory, where the separatist forces survive on financial and other help from Russia.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s special representative, David Bakradze, said on Wednesday that the increase in Russian peacekeepers amounted to “the beginning of full scale military aggression.” Nato, which Georgia is pressing hard to join, warned on Wednesday that Russia’s latest moves in Abkhazia “have increased tensions and have undermined Georgia’s territorial integrity.” “The allies are unanimous in supporting, endorsing Georgia’s territorial integrity and will not recognise or support steps that undermine that sovereignty,” Nato spokesman James Appathurai said.

The United States, which is Georgia’s biggest ally, also said it was “concerned.” The Russian Foreign Ministry has stated it will intervene if war breaks out between Georgia and the Abkhaz separatists, citing the right to protect Russian citizens.

Most people in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another smaller rebel zone, have Russian passports following Moscow’s policy of encouraging residents there to take up citizenship.

—AFP

Opinion

Editorial

Wheat price crash
Updated 20 May, 2024

Wheat price crash

What the government has done to Punjab’s smallholder wheat growers by staying out of the market amid crashing prices is deplorable.
Afghan corruption
20 May, 2024

Afghan corruption

AMONGST the reasons that the Afghan Taliban marched into Kabul in August 2021 without any resistance to speak of ...
Volleyball triumph
20 May, 2024

Volleyball triumph

IN the last week, while Pakistan’s cricket team savoured a come-from-behind T20 series victory against Ireland,...
Border clashes
19 May, 2024

Border clashes

THE Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier has witnessed another series of flare-ups, this time in the Kurram tribal district...
Penalising the dutiful
19 May, 2024

Penalising the dutiful

DOES the government feel no remorse in burdening honest citizens with the cost of its own ineptitude? With the ...
Students in Kyrgyzstan
Updated 19 May, 2024

Students in Kyrgyzstan

The govt ought to take a direct approach comprising convincing communication with the students and Kyrgyz authorities.