11 March 2005 -- Russia's Defense Ministry has criticized as "counterproductive" a unanimous vote by the Georgian parliament urging the Georgian government to set a deadline of next January for Moscow to close two Russian military bases in Georgia.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Vyacheslav Sedov said the issue cannot be resolved by the setting of ultimatums.
In a 159-0 vote yesterday, the Georgian parliament passed a resolution saying that unless a timetable for Russia's withdrawal is agreed by 15 May, the Georgian government should demand Russia's exit from the bases at Batumi and Akhalkalaki by 1 January 2006.
The resolution -- a recommendation which has no force of law -- urges that steps be taken by Georgia to shut down the bases if Russia fails to go along with a withdrawal deal.
Georgian lawmaker Giga Bokeria said the parliamentary vote backs more time for diplomacy.
"In this statement we are giving more time for diplomacy, despite the fact that Russian diplomacy have proved for times and times over that there is yet no political will in Russia to withdraw its bases, which are here as an echo of Soviet rule and which are here against the will of Georgian people," Bokeria said.
A Russian Defense Ministry official, General Anatolii Mazurkevich, said yesterday that it could take three to four years to close down the two bases.
(Reuters/AP/ITAR-TASS)See also: Analysis: Georgian Parliament Ups Ante On Russian Bases