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    RUSSIAN EMBASSY IN GEORGIA DENIES REPORTS ABOUT RUSSIAN COMBAT HARDWARE IN ADZHARIA

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    TBILISI, March 4, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent) - The Russian embassy in Georgia has bluntly refuted some media reports in Georgia about the alleged placing of tanks and combat hardware of the 12th Russian military base in Batumi in the streets and outskirts of the city, runs the statement of the Russian embassy in Georgia, circulated on Thursday.

    "In the last two days, four artillery systems, four anti-aircraft systems, and also four bullet-proof retrievers were moved from one military facility of the base to another stationed in Khelvachauri, for safe storage," says the statement.

    "Attempts to present these actions as 'the deployment of the Russian military equipment in Batumi' or some 'demonstration of force' are nothing but deliberate provocations aimed to escalate tension in Adzharia and aggravate Russian-Georgian relations," the statement reads.

    "The Russian embassy would like to announce that top officials of the Russian Defence Ministry gave clear instructions to commanders of the Russian military bases stationed in Georgia to strictly observe neutrality and not to interfere with Georgia's internal affairs. These instructions are being carefully implemented," the document says.

    On Thursday, leader of the Our Adzharia movement Tamaz Diasamidze alleged that Russian combat hardware had appeared on Thursday morning in some Adzharian settlements, said the Georgian Rustavi TV company.

    "On Thursday morning, combat hardware was seen near the Sharabadzevskoye settlement and the Khelvachauri district centre," said Diasamidze.

    He affirmed that about 40 minutes after this fact was made public, all the units of the hardware returned to the 12th Russian military base stationed in Adzharia.

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