Igor Akhba, spokesman for the president of Abkhazia (self-proclaimed republic on Georgian territory) has pronounced for keeping the Russian military base at Gudauta and for the stay of Russian peacekeeping presence in the area of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. He said this during a press conference at the Izvestiya paper Media Centre in Moscow on Thursday. According to Akhba, the Russian base in Gudauta is a basis for guaranteeing peace in Abkhazia and helps the Russian peacekeepers to carry out their mission. He stressed that the Russian peacekeepers were "an important stabilising factor in the region". Akhba pointed out that they successfully performed a major task. According to him, the Russian peacekeepers helped to prevent large-scale military operations in the Kodori gorge after Chechen and Georgian gunmen had entered there. "We believe that there is no alternative for Russian peacekeepers," the Abkhazian spokesman said. He added that the Abkhazian leader Vladislav Ardzinba had the other day addressed a letter to Vladimir Putin asking him to extend the mandate of the CIS collective forces in Abkhazia at the next CIS summit. The letter also contained a request for the CIS heads of state to demand that Georgia comply with pledges it has made. While responding to journalists' questions, Akhba pointed out that Abkhazia "applied to Russia to act as a mediator, hoping that it would play a more active role in settling the problem."
Russian small missile ships - the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Great Ustyug - set off for a mission to the Mediterranean Sea