Russia begins removing armour from military base in Georgia

RTR Russia TV, Moscow
13 May 06

[Presenter] Russia is withdrawing from its military base in
Akhalkalaki, Georgia. The first convoy of equipment and weaponry was
put together today. The base will be vacated by the end of this
year. Our correspondent Aleksandr Rogatkin is in Akhalkalaki.

[Video report shows tanks moving, heavy vehicles being loaded at
railway sidings, military officers and personnel, local people]

[Correspondent] The tanks will go to the station at Tsalka under their
own steam. That's about 100 km from here. There they'll be loaded onto
railway trailers.

[Igor Konoshenkov, adjutant to commander-in-chief of Russian Ground
Troops, captioned] Equipment and weaponry will leave from this station
and go via Azerbaijan. Wheeled vehicles and some of our armour will be
loaded up today.

Heavy equipment will be loaded up onto rail trailers on the 14th [of
May] and on the 15th, under the agreement with Georgia, in the morning
of that day, the first convoy will depart for Russia.

[Correspondent] The convoy's destination is Makhachkala. From there,
the equipment will be sent on to various units in the North Caucasus
Military District. A hundred and fifty officers at the Akhalkalaki
base will be given new postings. The conscripts, of whom there are
nearly 600, will be gradually discharged into the reserve. The
Armenian community here usually stage protests against the base's
closure but this time everything went smoothly.

[David Rostokyan, Armenian community leader, Akhalkalaki] We've been
saying, and we still say that the Russian military base is a factor
for stability and security. If the Russians leave this region so
abruptly, the likelihood of a conflict will be much greater.

[Correspondent] The plan is to send about 20 convoys of heavy armour
by September. Some armour and armaments will also be moved to a base
in Armenia.

Under the agreement with Georgia, the last Russian soldier should go
from Akhalkalaki base by the end of 2007.