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  Tuesday, June 2, 2020
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Russia may use its Air Force in the event of a Georgian attack on Russian peacekeepers stationed in the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia
Commenting on recent tensions between Russia and Georgia last Sunday, Sergei Ivanov, the Russian defense minister and a deputy prime minister, said Russia would not remain indifferent in the event Georgia attacked Russian peacekeepers or citizens, either in South Ossetia or in Abkhazia. "If the minister said that we [Russia] would certainly take adequate measures, than he probably meant the use of air, naval and land forces," Vladimir Mikhailov said. South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, unleashing bloody conflicts in the region. Russia mediated ceasefire agreements between the sides, and Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the conflict zones ever since. On Friday, Russia asked the UN Security Council to draft a resolution on Georgia demanding an extension of the mandate for its peacekeepers in Abkhazia until April 15, 2007. Since President 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 of the two self-proclaimed republics, and to force the withdrawal of Russian troops from two Soviet-era bases that are due to close in 2008. Mikhailov also said Russia could also use military transport aviation for the withdrawal of military hardware and personnel from its two bases in Georgia. "If necessary, we will use military transport planes, which could land in Adler [a Russian city on the Black Sea] or in other airports to get the job done," Mikhailov said. Part of the military equipment being removed from Russian bases in Georgia will be transferred to the Gyumri base when Russia completes its withdrawal from Akhalkalaki and Batumi by the end of 2008. 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. Authorities in Georgia charged four Russian officers with spying last Wednesday, but released them Monday to defuse what was becoming a mounting crisis. An enraged Moscow responded by suspending all transportation and mail links with Georgia, while police targeted illegal immigrants and businesses suspected of maintaining links with the Georgian criminal underworld.
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