Georgia: 27 Russian jets sent to Abkhazia

TBILISI, Georgia (AP) - Georgia's foreign minister on Friday accused Russia of sending more than two dozen fighter jets to a base in the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

An Abkhaz defense official denied the claim, but indicated that Russia jets could be based there in the future.

Moscow has recognized Abkhazia as an independent nation in the wake of the August war between Georgia and Russia.

Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said 27 jets are now at the former Soviet airfield at Gudauta, which he said was in flagrant violation of a 1999 treaty on conventional forces in Europe. Speaking to journalists in parliament, he said the deployment was clearly aimed against Georgia.

But Garry Kupalba, deputy defense minister of Abkhazia, said there were no Russian jets at the Gudauta air base. He said the base has not been used since 1993.

The Abkhaz leadership was in discussions with Moscow about military cooperation, he said. "If a decision is made to establish an air base, we will announce it officially," Kupalba said in Sukhumi, the Abkhaz capital.

Russian officials could not be reached for comment Friday evening.

Russia has announced plans to start building a naval base in Abkhazia on the Black Sea - something that has prompted alarm in Europe and the United States.

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Associated Press writer Ruslan Khashig in Sukhumi, Georgia, contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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