( RIA Novosti ) - A Soviet-era Russian military base in Batumi was formally handed over to the Georgian Defense Ministry on Tuesday, with Russia pledging to complete the pullout of military equipment by the end of November.
Georgian Deputy Defense Minister Batu Kutelia and the commander of Russia's contingent in the South Caucasus, Andrei Popov, signed a document on the transfer of the base in southern Georgia, the Defense Ministry said.
"This is a historic day. The signing of the document marks the end of the withdrawal of Russian bases from Georgia, putting an end to Russian military presence in Georgia," Kutelia said.
Russia completed the pullout of its military garrison from Tbilisi, handing over control of its headquarters to Georgia's Defense Ministry, last December, and formally handed over its military base at Akhalkalaki in southern Georgia to Tbilisi in June, ahead of the October 2007 deadline.
Under an agreement between the former Soviet allies, Russia was to complete the closure of its base in Batumi by the end of 2008.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Popov said, "The last military train leaves for Russia today. Another train carrying military equipment will depart for Armenia on November 15. Some personnel will stay at the base until November 30".
The tiny Caucasus nation has sought to join NATO and other European organizations since U.S.-educated President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power on the back of street protests in 2003.
Similar opposition demonstrations against Saakashvili last week led to the announcement last week of early presidential elections, set for January 5. Saakashvili has blamed Russia for tension in the country, expelling three Russian diplomats on November 8.