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    Georgia protests Russian military drills in North Caucasus

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    Georgia's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Russia's large-scale military exercises in the North Caucasus is another manifestation of aggression against Tbilisi.

    TBILISI, July 16 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday that Russia's large-scale military exercises in the North Caucasus is another manifestation of aggression against Tbilisi.

    The exercise, dubbed Caucasus Frontier 2008, entered its active stage Tuesday and involves units of the North Caucasus Military District, mainly the 58th Army, the 4th Air Force Army, Interior Ministry troops, and border guards.

    The ministry criticized earlier statements by Col. Gen. Sergei Makarov, the commander of Russia's North Caucasus Military District, who said that among other things the troops would practice assistance to Russian peacekeepers stationed in Georgia's separatist Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.

    "The statements made by the Russian Defense Ministry and high-ranking military officials can be regarded only as a direct threat of military intervention and aggression against a sovereign state," the ministry said in a statement.

    The statement added that Tbilisi "insistently calls on Russia to restrain from irresponsible statements and put an end to aggressive politics aimed against Georgia."

    Lt. Col. Andrei Bobrun, an aide to the North Caucasus Military District commander, said earlier that the main aim of the exercises was to practice interoperability between federal troops, Interior Ministry troops, border guards, and the Air Force in special operations against militants and in the defense of Russia's international borders.

    Georgia together with the United States also began large-scale military exercises Tuesday, Immediate Response 2008, near its capital of Tbilisi.

    A total of 1,650 personnel, including troops from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Ukraine, are taking part in the $8 million drills, planned by the U.S. Armed Forces European Command and financed by the U.S. Defense Department.

    Relations between Russia and Georgia plunged to a new low recently against the backdrop of violence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which broke away from Tbilisi in the early 1990s. Russian support for the separatist republics and Georgia's bid to join NATO have exacerbated the tension.

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