Georgia says 250,000 soldiers ready to fight "external threat"

Georgia Materials 12 October 2007 00:44 (UTC +04:00)

( RIA Novosti ) - Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said a quarter of a million soldiers were available to defend his country against any possible "external threat".

Saakashvili's statement was an apparent reference to Russia at a time when relations between the two former Soviet republics have hit their lowest point.

"There is no U.S.S.R. any more but the threat exists, and if need be, Georgia will be able to deploy 250,000 soldiers tomorrow," Saakashvili said.

The pro-West Georgian leader symbolically made his statement in Finland, a country that was attacked by the Soviet Union in 1939, but retained its sovereignty and most of its territory despite its army being considerably outnumbered.

During his visit to Helsinki, the Georgian president laid a wreath at the Cross of Heroes and the tomb of Marshal Carl Mannerheim, who led the Finnish troops in the fight against the Soviets.

"The Finnish people were not mislead by provocations, and were not afraid to face such an enemy as the U.S.S.R.," Saakashvili said. "This must be a good example for the Georgian people."

The Georgian leadership, which is seeking to bring the country into the European Union and NATO, has accused Russia of trying to regain Soviet-time influence over the country, and of supporting separatists in Georgia's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia introduced economic and transport sanctions against Georgia last year over the country's espionage allegations against Russian peacekeeping officers.