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NATO exercises in Georgia nearing their end

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, June 1
One of the last exercises of the Cooperative Lancer/Longbow 2009 NATO-backed trainings was held at Vaziani military base on May 31.

The military command allowed local and foreign media to cover this exercise, designed to help international forces undertake peacekeeping missions. It involved the establishment and operation of checkpoints, maintaining control of important facilities in the guarded area and counter-terrorist measures. To simulate reality, Sunday’s trainings were undertaken with service cartridges and real explosives. One of the tasks set was the evacuation of an injured serviceman. Though the initial subject was only pretending to be injured, one of the Canadian soldiers really did injure himself while handling the explosives as was evacuated in place of the original subject. The command announced that his condition is stable and his life is not in danger.

About 700 servicemen from a total of 13 countries participated in the last phase of the exercises, including nine NATO countries and four Partnership for Peace (PFP) programme states. “The goals of the exercises are fulfilled,” stated Spanish Lieutenant-Colonel Luis Aparicio, speaking to journalists after the exercises. Aparicio, who heads the Cooperative Lancer/Longbow 2009 information department, announced that the organizers are pleased with the results of the exercises. “I don’t think that these exercises were useful for Georgian troops only, all participant countries took the chance to share experience with each other,” said the Lieutenant-Colonel answering The Messenger’s question. He underlined that these trainings were open for “any participant of the PFP”. Aparicio refused to comment on Russia’s evaluation of these trainings. “Let the Russians comment on their announcement themselves,” stated the Spanish officer. Cooperative Lancer/Longbow 2009 officially finishes on June 3.

The separatist authorities of Georgian breakaway region South Ossetia have announced that the NATO-backed trainings in Georgia were deliberately conducted at the same time as the Parliamentary elections in South Ossetia. The de facto authorities said that that the Georgian Government was intending to use international troops to “conduct provocations” in South Ossetia. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev described the exercises as "bringing instability in the region" because they are taking place in close proximity to breakaway South Ossetia, a territory regarded as Russian-occupied by the Georgian Government. Medvedev stated that it was “provocative” to conduct exercises where an open military conflict had taken place several months earlier. The Georgian Foreign Ministry responded that Russia’s accusations were “absurd” and noted that Georgia is a sovereign state and has the right to conduct any exercises it wants on its territory.

The NATO exercises will be followed by Russia’s Kavkaz-2009 large-scale exercises in the region close to the Georgian border. The Russian media has announced that about 5,000 Russian soldiers will participate.