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Georgia, U.S. Criticize New Russian-Abkhaz Military Force

Russian soldiers cross rail tracks in Gudauta, Abkhazia, where a Russian military base is located (file photo).
Russian soldiers cross rail tracks in Gudauta, Abkhazia, where a Russian military base is located (file photo).

Georgia has joined the United States in criticizing a new joint military force that has been established by Russia and Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia.

The Foreign Ministry in Tbilisi said the agreement signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 21 was "a provocative step" that promotes "the definitive annexation of the occupied regions of Georgia."

Among other things, the agreement allows for developing a Russian base in Abkhazia along with motorized Abkhaz infantry battalions, and artillery and aviation groups.

It also gives the Russian Defense Ministry command over the force in times of war.

Tbilisi said on November 23 that the agreement was an "illegal deed" directed "against a sovereign state's territorial integrity and internationally recognized inviolability of borders."

It said the agreement was a "manifestation of aggression against Georgia."

The Georgian Foreign Ministry called on Russia to "honor its obligations and fully implement the cease-fire agreement of August 12, 2008, withdraw its military units from the occupied territories of Georgia, and ensure the establishment of international security mechanisms in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvall region."

It also called on the international community to "properly assess the Russian Federation's aggressive actions" and take "efficient measures to prevent the further deterioration" of the security situation in the region.

The U.S. State Department said on November 22 that the agreement wasn't valid under international law.

"We do not recognize the legitimacy of this so-called 'treaty,' which does not constitute a valid international agreement," spokesman John Kirby said.

Abkhazia has run its own affairs independent of Georgia since a brief civil war in the early 1990s.

The region's de facto autonomy was further strengthened when Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and sent thousands of troops into Abkhazia.

Moscow later recognized the region as independent, though the overwhelming majority of United Nations members have refused to do so.

With reporting by TASS and Interfax

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