RUSSIA INCREASES MILITARY PRESENCE IN CSTO COUNTRIES

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POIANA BRASOV (Romania), October 14 (RIA Novosti) - Russia has increased its military presence in Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member countries (Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Armenia), Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said after an informal session of the Russia-NATO Council.

"Recently, Russia has been increasing its military presence, in the first place, in CSTO member states," he said. "It is not a secret what geographical area we are doing this in - south of Russia, because potential threats may come from that area." He stressed that Russian military bases are in its allies and that the bases could also be used to maintain security.

"We do not have any obligations to NATO," he said, "we are acting in our own national interests."

Answering a question about the possibility of an American military base in Romania, Mr. Ivanov said: "The opening of a US base in Romania was discussed during our bilateral contacts in the United States and I think that Donald Rumsfeld, who informed me about it, told me everything. Another question is why this base is being created - countering real threats is one thing, but mythical ones is a different matter."

The Russian minister also spoke about Transdniestria, a self-proclaimed republic in Moldova which borders on Romania. He said that weapons and ammunition from the depots of the former 14th Army in Transdniestria were not leaking out.

"The 14th Army was withdrawn from Transdniestria a long time ago," he said. "Presently there are about 1,500 peacekeepers there who defend a great number of military depots which remained from the former 14th Army of the Soviet Union.

"However, it is difficult for such a number of servicemen to defend such a large number of depots, and I thank them for not letting weapons out."

The minister underscored that the peacekeepers would remain in Transdniestria until Russian ammunition was withdrawn.

"They will stay there until we remove all our property," he said. "But during the past six months we could not do it and this does not depend on us."

The minister also noted that the peacekeepers successfully carried out their duty to prevent the resumption of the conflict between Moldova and the unrecognized republic.

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