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    RUSSIAN DEFENSE AND FOREIGN MINISTRIES DENY GEORGIA'S STATEMENTS ON DEPLOYMENT OF SPECIAL FORCES IN ABKHAZIA

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    MOSCOW, October 16 (RIA Novosti) - Several units of Russian special forces have entered the unrecognized Abkhaz Republic, warns Georgia. Russia's Foreign and Defense ministries flatly deny it.

    Russian special forces and Caucasian Peoples' Confederation volunteers are concentrating in Abkhazia, Georgia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs alleges in a statement. That is utterly wrong, Alexander Yakovenko, official spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said to RIA Novosti.

    "There are no Russian commandos or paratroopers along the Abhkaz stretch of the Russian-Georgian frontier, let alone in Abkhazia. All related in formation is a hoax, and bases on rumors that allegedly come from unidentified military informants," he stresses in a statement.

    As far as Georgia's Foreign Ministry knows, Russia has illegally introduced several hundred commandos via the Psou checkpoint on the Russian-Georgian frontier, starting October 3. Georgy Gomiashvili, Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister, said so to a news conference in Tbilisi yesterday.

    More than that, armed forces of the so-called Caucasian Peoples' Confederation are gathering in Sukhumi, Gudauta and elsewhere in Abkhazia. Led by notorious Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev, Confederation militants were active in Abkhaz warfare, and are on the "wanted" list on suspected involvement in terror acts, Mr. Gomiashvili went on.

    As things really are, Russia has no reason whatsoever for military presence in Abkhazia. Developments round its presidential election do not offer a slightest danger to Russian nationals in the area, reassured Mr. Yakovenko. "As for private travel to Abkhazia, there are many reports of such trips from Georgia and from the North Caucasus alike. Abkhazia is a multiethnic land, and its residents have kith and kin from among many ethnic entities in the region," he added.

    "Not to whip up passions is the main thing that matters-the Abkhaz election must have a peaceful finish," pointed outthe diplomat.

    Novosti has also received comments from the Defense Ministry. Peacekeepers are the only Russian soldiers presently in Abkhazia, said Colonel Vyacheslav Sedov, ministerial press service chief. "The peacekeeping contingent remains in the places of its permanent stationing, and carries on routine service. No other units have appeared in the area." Peacekeepers have a CIS mandate, and never intervene in local domestic political developments.

    The Defense Ministry has not dispatched any reinforcement, either, to the conflict zone in South Ossetia, another unrecognized republic in Georgia. "Russian peacekeepers stay at base, and the current situation is comparatively calm," Colonel Sedov emphatically added.

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