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Georgia's Top General Replaced After Four Months


Defense Minister Vasil Sikharulidze said reforms in 2009 would include "proper organization, proper management."

Defense Minister Vasil Sikharulidze said reforms in 2009 would include "proper organization, proper management."

TBILISI (Reuters) -- The head of Georgia's armed forces has been replaced after four months in the job, with local media blaming a personnel clash.

Colonel Vladimer Chachibaia, a 37-year-old career soldier, was moved to the post of first deputy defense minister. He was replaced by his deputy, Devi Chankotadze.

The Defense Ministry said it was a promotion, but Georgian media reported Chachibaia had resigned days earlier in protest at what he said was meddling by another senior Defense Ministry official in the work of the chief of staff.

Asked about the reports, a Defense Ministry spokeswoman said, "We don't comment on rumors."

Another change at the head of the armed forces is unlikely to improve confidence in the Georgian military, singled out for criticism after Georgia's defeat by Russia in a war last year.

A leaked Pentagon assessment after the war was scathing in its criticism of the 31,000-strong armed forces, despite years of funding and training by the United States.

It said the Georgian military was highly politicized and centralized, and suffered from widespread mismanagement and unqualified leadership.

The military was routed by Russian forces in five days, when Moscow repelled a Georgian assault on the breakaway, pro-Russian region of South Ossetia.

Chachibaia was appointed in early November 2008 after President Mikheil Saakashvili sacked Chief of Staff Zaza Gogava, saying "shortcomings" should be eliminated.

In an interview with Reuters on March 2, Defense Minister Vasil Sikharulidze said reforms in 2009 would include "proper organization, proper management."
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