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Russia began pulling out weapons and equipment from one of its Soviet-era military bases in Georgia
Russia began pulling out weapons and equipment from one of its Soviet-era military bases in Georgia early Wednesday in accordance with a bilateral agreement, the South Caucasus republic's Defense Ministry said. Under an agreement signed on March 31, Russia is to withdraw from two bases in Georgia - Akhalkalaki and Batumi - by 2008. The pullout from Akhalkalaki in the south of the country is to be completed by December 2006. The Russian military began dismantling the Akhalkalaki base at about 1 a.m. Moscow time (9 p.m. GMT Tuesday) and the first batch of equipment and materiel has been withdrawn, the ministry said. The equipment is being withdrawn to Tsalka in eastern Georgia and some of it will be redeployed to a Russian base in neighboring Armenia later. Part of the weapons and equipment, including 113 tanks and other hardware, will be moved from Georgia to Russia by sea, and the remaining materiel, including 35 tanks, to the Gyumri base in Armenia. Speaker of the Georgian parliament Nino Burdzhanadze said Thursday she was satisfied with the pace of the pullout preparations. "I am glad that we have signed an agreement with Russia, and that the timeframes are being observed," she said, referring to the March agreement. Georgia has been seeking membership in NATO since the 2004 popular uprising, or "rose revolution", brought a West-leaning government to the former Soviet republic
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