Russia to withdraw railroad troops from Abkhazia on July 30

Other News Materials 25 July 2008 15:26 (UTC +04:00)

Russia will pull out its railroad troops from Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia on July 29-30, the troops' deputy commander said on Friday.

"Work to repair a 55-km (34-mile) section of the railroad in the area, in cooperation with Russian Railways, has been accomplished," General Alexander Sobolev said, adding that the work had gone smoothly, reported RIA Novosti.

Around 300 railroad troops arrived in the self-proclaimed republic on May 31 as part of an earlier-announced Russian aid and support program for the region. The deployment sparked a furious reaction from Georgia, which accused Moscow of preparing for military intervention in the Georgia-Abkhaz conflict.

During the operation, the Russian troops repaired 50 km of railway tracks, replaced around 12,000 railway ties and crossing ties at sidings. They also repaired some 20 railway bridges and tunnels. The repair work had originally been scheduled to end on August 6.

In April, then-Russian president Vladimir Putin called for closer links with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another Georgian breakaway republic, provoking fury from Tbilisi, which accused Moscow of trying to annex the regions.

Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed in the subsequent hostilities. The two sides signed a ceasefire in 1994 in Moscow.

Relations between Russia and Georgia have rapidly deteriorated over Moscow's support for the breakaway provinces and Tbilisi's drive for NATO membership.