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Medvedev unveils greater military presence in breakaway regions

By Ernest Petrosyan
Wednesday, February 8
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has announced that Russia enhanced its military bases in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and can inflict “disproportionate damage” on any aggressor, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

“[Military bases] are now in such condition that they are capable of protecting these two small states and, correspondingly, Russian interests, in the most powerful way. There is enough weaponry on the ground to inflict incommensurable damage to any invader and they understand it; even reckless Saakashvili understands it,” Medvedev said at a meeting with supporters in his Gorky residence outside Moscow.

In response to a question regarding Georgia’s remilitarization, Medvedev regretfully said that although in the wake of the August 2008 war, Russia had managed to secure an international “informal arms embargo” against Georgia, the situation was now changing, as Georgia has again started "to buy arms from around the world". He added that Georgia’s military potential is being taken into consideration during Russian military planning activities.

"To be candid," Medvedev continued. "This militarization has not been stopped even after the so-called five-day war [in August, 2008]. Furthermore, we have information that supplies of various types of weapons continued through the U.S. administration and some other countries, including our close neighbours, immediately after [the war]. That is why we had to reinforce our military bases, which are located on the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” he added.

However, Medvedev admitted that Russia cannot prohibit other states from supplying arms to Georgia. “We are openly speaking about it with the leaders of some states; I have spoken specifically on this issue with them: ‘What are you doing? That’s simply dangerous’. But of course we cannot completely prohibit that and we have to take it into consideration in our policies,” Medvedev said, noting that the lack of power to ban others from supplying arms to Georgia was not in any way a sign of Russia’s weakness. “Don’t have any doubts about that; everything is OK".

The President also addressed reports that a compromise deal with Georgia had allowed Russia to become a member of the World Trade Organization after an 18-year wait – including rumours that Russia turned a blind eye to Georgian re-armament in exchange for their support.

“As far as the WTO is concerned – of course that’s nonsense,” Medvedev responded. “We have not engaged in a trade-off with anyone, including with the Georgians. We have some trade issues with them, and as you know at some point [in 2006] we banned the import of a number of products [including wine and mineral water], there were some other problems as well. I think that in the framework of civilized dialogue we should build [trade] relations with our neighbours, restoring, where possible, trade turnover.”