"These patrols were envisaged in the international agreement," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said. "Poti is outside of the security zone, but that does not mean we will sit behind a fence watching them riding around in Hummers."
Two more NATO ships, a Polish frigate and a U.S. destroyer, passed through the Bosporus strait and entered the Black Sea on Friday evening to boost the alliance's presence in the Black Sea, where it is delivering humanitarian cargoes to Georgia, a source in the Turkish navy said.
Nogovitsyn said with confidence that Georgia was restoring its military potential for a new act of aggression.
"Now that Georgia has actually acknowledged being an aggressor, and is asking for the potential of its armed forces to be restored, it can be restored only for another act of aggression," the Defense Ministry official warned.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Batu Kuteliya, Georgian deputy defense minister, said that Georgia had decided to attack South Ossetia's capital, Tskhinvali, despite the insufficient amount of anti-tank and air defenses to protect its armed forces against potential serious resistance.
"I didn't think it likely that a member of the UN Security Council and the OSCE would react like this," Kuteliya told FT.
Georgia lost 215 of its nationals in the conflict, including 13 policemen, 133 military personnel and 69 civilians, Givi Targamadze, who heads the Georgian parliament's defense and security committee, said Wednesday.
Nogovitsyn said 64 Russian servicemen had been killed in the recent conflict, with more than 370 injured.
"We do not gather statistics on the death toll among civilians, but according to South Ossetia's Interior Ministry... 2,100 people were killed in the conflict," he said.
The General Staff deputy chief also warned that Russia could increase the number of its peacekeepers in Georgia's two breakaway republic of Abkhazia and South Ossetia if Washington helped Georgia to beef up its military potential.
At a news conference on Friday, Nogovitsyn said Russia would deploy 2,142 peacekeepers in Abkhazia, but that the number of peacekeepers in South Ossetia would be fixed at a later date.
The military official also said Russia had set up 18 peacekeeping posts in South Ossetia and would build as many in Abkhazia "in order to avert looters and the transportation of arms and ammunition."