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    Four NATO warships leaving Black Sea

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    NATO said Wednesday four of its warships were leaving the Black Sea in line with a previously drawn up schedule.

    MOSCOW, September 10 (RIA Novosti) - NATO said Wednesday four of its warships were leaving the Black Sea in line with a previously drawn up schedule.

    "The Standing NATO Maritime Group One [SNMG 1] successfully completed its planned visit and is leaving the Black Sea today," NATO said.

    The ships had been in the Black Sea since August 21, arriving nine days after the conclusion of armed hostilities between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia. Russia expressed concern over the fact that NATO ships were in the area, but the North Atlantic alliance responded that the exercises had been planned a year ago.

    The current crisis began when Georgian forces attacked breakaway South Ossetia on August 8, triggering a Russian operation to "force Georgia to peace." Most residents of South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, have Russian citizenship.

    Russia then recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia on August 26.

    Western nations strongly criticized Russia for its "disproportionate" response to Georgia's attack, and its recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. So far only Nicaragua has followed suit, but Belarus looks likely to do so later this month.

    Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s amid bloody conflicts which claimed thousands of lives.

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