Georgia's unrecognized Abkhazia says no Russian weapons delivery

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SUKHUMI, July 7 (RIA Novosti) - Military officials in Georgia's self-proclaimed republic of Abkhazia denied reports Friday that Russian weapons had been delivered to the region.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Thursday that weapons from Russia had arrived in a former Russian military base in the Abkhazian port town of Gudauta on the Black Sea.

Abkhazia's Deputy Foreign Minister and chief of the General Staff Anatoly Zaitsev denied the information, saying Russia had withdrawn its hardware from Gudauta in 2001 in accordance with the 1999 Istanbul commitments on military pullout from Soviet-era bases in former Soviet republics.

"The base has been closed," he said. "The territory is now used as a helicopter pad for Collective Forces of the CIS to maintain ceasefire in the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict zone."

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is a loose union of 11 former Soviet republics.

The command of the CIS Collective Forces said that a security group of 60 people and another 70 personnel were employed at the base to service helicopter flights.

Georgia's Western-leaning authorities and the Russian government have been involved in disputes this year over Russia's peacekeeping presence in Georgia's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Authorities in both unrecognized republics have spoken in favor of Russia's peacekeepers staying on their territory, whereas Georgia, which has been seeking NATO membership since Saakashvili became president in 2004, has questioned the need for Russia's military presence on its territory.

Russia assisted in concluding ceasefire agreements between Georgia and its separatist republics in the early 1990s and peacekeepers have since helped maintain ceasefire in the conflict zones.

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