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A Russian military base near the southern Georgian city of Akhalkalaki will be withdrawn by October 1, 2007
A Russian military base near the southern Georgian city of Akhalkalaki will be withdrawn by October 1, 2007, a senior military officer said Friday. Commander of Land Forces, Colonel General Alexei Maslov said another Russian base at Batumi, the capital of the northwestern autonomy of Adjaria, and the headquarters of Russian forces in South Caucasus would be withdrawn in 2008. His comments came after the two countries signed a framework agreement on the withdrawal, which also details the visa regime for military personal involved in the pullout. Maslov said the second agreement on the transfer of heavy military equipment and personnel from Georgia to the 102nd military base in Armenia was also very important because it would allow Russia to eliminate the shortfall of materiel at the base. The decision on the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia was made at a summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the world's biggest regional security grouping, in Istanbul in 1999. However, the timeframe for the withdrawal has increasingly marred Russian-Georgian relations, as Tbilisi wanted to see Russian troops leave as soon as possible, while Moscow insisted that it should be given more time to avoid repeating the mistakes of the pullout from eastern Europe in the 1990s. Thousands of soldiers then returned to their homeland from bases in former Soviet satellites only to find that there was nowhere for them to live. Maslov, though, was upbeat after the conclusion of today's talks. "We have fulfilled all obligations under the Istanbul Agreements," he said.
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