May 1, 2008

MOSCOW (AFP) — Extra Russian troops deployed 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.

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