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1/8/2014 9:48
RIA Novosti

Russia

Former Russian forces commander in Georgia unhappy about pullout

14:31 02/06/2005
MOSCOW, June 2 (RIA Novosti) - Withdrawing its military bases from Georgia is a major geopolitical loss for Russia, says Lieutenant General Yuri Netkachev, who once served as deputy commander of Russia's Task Force in the Transcaucasia, Voyenno-Promyshlenny Kuryer, a weekly, reported.

"They will sweep off our bases, and the Turks, or Americans, or whoever will come after us. The niche will be filled," he told the Russian defense weekly.

Netkachev complained about the lack of a consistent state policy in the post-Soviet territories for the last decade. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili offends Russia and its citizens, imposes various restrictions on the Russian military in Georgia, while Moscow just says it will fire back with sanctions and never does, he said.

"At first we said it will take us 11 years to go, now we have agreed to four years," he said, adding the pullout from Batumi and Akhalkalaki, where the two Russian bases are deployed, will be far from smooth.

"The locals will just not let us go. Akhalkalaki is a mostly Armenian-populated place, and they would rather separate from Georgia than let the people and equipment return to Russia. The same thing can be said for Batumi. Our bases there mean jobs for people, a factor of stability."

Netkachev predicts that Saakashvili will wage war on Georgia's breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia before the ink dries on the pullout agreement.

"With his hands untied, Saakashvili will begin war first against South Ossetia, then with Abkhazia," he said. "Is this not why he has tripled his military budget? They are buying tanks, warplanes, helicopters, which all promise a big war in the future. The Ossetians and the Abkhaz will never let go of their land in Georgia."

Netkachev said most people living in these provinces have Russian citizenship.

The 3,000-man Russian task force deployed in Georgia has 150 battle tanks, 240 armored vehicles and 140 artillery systems.

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