A retired Russian general who was wounded in Moscow's war against Georgia in 2008 has been appointed to head the military in the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia, a sign of Moscow's increasing control over the province on the Black Sea.
The office of the separatist president of Abkhazia, Raul Khajimba, said on May 18 that General Anatoly Khrulyov was named chief of General Staff of the breakaway region's armed forces.
Khrulyov is a former commander of Russia's 58th Army, which is based in the Southern Military District near Georgia -- Moscow's enemy in a five-day war that erupted in August 2008 over control of another Moscow-backed separatist region, South Ossetia.
Khrulyov was wounded in the war, during which Russian forces drove deep into Georgia before pulling back in the wake of a European Union-brokered truce that NATO says Russia violates by keeping thousands of troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Russia recognized both regions as independent countries after the war --- though few other countries have followed suit -- and signed a pact with Abkhazia in November that tightened their military ties.
The statement issued by Khajimba's office quoted him as telling Khrulyov that Abkhazia needed his "knowledge and experience."
"Our army is not large, but during difficult wartime it showed itself to be combat-capable. Times are now different and we have new tasks, including the development of military cooperation with Russia," it quoted Khajimba as saying.
Khrulyov, 59, led the 58th Army from 2006 until his retirement in May 2010.
The announcement of his appointment came three days after Khajimba met Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian Black Sea resort city of Sochi, which borders Abkhazia.
Under the November "alliance and strategic partnership" pact, Russia and Abkhazia's separatist government agreed to develop collective defense and establish a Combined Group of Forces.
The treaty also holds Russian and Abkhaz forces responsible for jointly patrolling borders.
Georgia has denounced the pact, calling it a move toward the annexation of Abkhazia by Russia, and it has been dismissed as illegitimate by the United States and other Western countries.
With reporting by Civil.ge and Apsnypress.info