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Russia's lower house of parliament ratified Friday agreements on the transit of Russian military cargo and personnel through Georgia
Russia's lower house of parliament ratified Friday agreements on the transit of Russian military cargo and personnel through Georgia, and on the terms, order of operation and withdrawal from Russian military bases in Georgia. The agreements were ratified in line with documents signed by Russia and Georgia in March 2006 in Sochi. After four Russian officers were detained in Tbilisi and charged with espionage last week, Russia suspended travel, postal links with Georgia, and threatened to freeze banking transactions with the southern neighbor. The sanctions remain in force despite Georgia's release of the Russian officers Monday. The first ratified agreement defines transit procedures through Georgian territory of military cargo and personnel in support of the 102nd Russian military base in Armenia. The Russian 102nd military base in Gyumri, about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from the Armenian capital Yerevan, is part of a joint air defense system of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which was deployed in Armenia in 1995. The base operates under the authority of the Russian group of forces in the South Caucasus, and is equipped with S-300 (SA-10 Grumble) air defense systems, MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters and 5,000 personnel. Under the agreement, the Russian military transit through Georgia may be conducted by road, air or rail transport. Russia cannot deliver through Georgian territory, including its air space, nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, as well as other weapons of mass destruction, including its components. The term of the agreement is five years, but it may be extended if there are no objections from either side. The ratified agreement on the terms, order of operation and withdrawal of the Russian military bases in Georgia states that two Soviet-era bases in the western city of Batumi and the southern city of Akhalkalaki will remain operational during the gradual process of removing troops and hardware. Under the 2006 agreement, Russia must withdraw from the southern city of Akhalkalaki by October 1, 2007, but the deadline can be extended until December in the event of complications. The withdrawal from Batumi in the west of Georgia must be completed by late 2008. Russian military officials said they have been kept on schedule in 2006. Since Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in Georgia on the back of the 2003 "Rose Revolution," both the government and parliament have sought to remove Russian peacekeepers from the conflict zones with two self-proclaimed republics, and to force the withdrawal of Russian troops from the two Soviet-era bases.
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