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    RUSSIAN MILITARY BASES' WITHDRAWAL FROM GEORGIA WILL TAKE NO LESS THAN FIVE YEARS

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    MOSCOW, February 4 (RIA Novosti) - The withdrawal of the Russian military bases from Georgia will take no less than five years, said a high-ranking source in the Russian defense ministry.

    "This term remains the subject of talks between Moscow and Tbilisi," said the source. In his words, the withdrawal will start only after a relevant intergovernmental agreement is signed and ratified.

    The source explained that the agreement is to include items explaining the order of financing the withdrawal, as well as the creation of similar facilities on Russian territory. It will deal with raw materials, testing ranges, and infrastructure for 8,000 persons - the personnel of the bases in Batumi and Akhalkalaki, said the source.

    The official emphasized that the Georgian side will finance this project, while the volumes of financing will be determined by the Russian finance ministry.

    "By the defense ministry's preliminary estimates, the talk is about several hundred million dollars," said the source. In fact, two brigades will have to be re-deployed. The experience of the 76th division of the airborne troops showed that the reconstruction of 40% of the infrastructure (construction of barracks, reconstruction of the testing range) took 18 months.

    Thus, the official noted, the position of Georgia, who insists on the withdrawal of the Russian bases completed within three years is unrealizable.

    Eight rounds of talks have been held on the Russian bases issue, said the source. As soon as a legitimate government is formed in Georgia, he said, the negotiations will continue.

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