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US Military Presence in Georgia Poses Threat to Russia's Security

The Russian State Duma, parliament's lower house, believes the Georgian-American agreement on co-operation in the military area poses a security threat to Russia. A statement to the effect was made by Anatoly Chekhoyev, second in charge of the Duma's committee for CIS affairs and contacts with compatriots.

Georgia and the United States signed the agreement on December 10, 2002, and the Georgian parliament ratified it on March 21, 2003, recalled the MP. It envisages a visa-free entry-exit regime, unhampered movement of the military and weaponry and utter legal immunity for the US military on Georgian soil.

In the meantime, Georgia is still torn by major conflicts in its former autonomies of Abkhazia and South Ossetia where Russian peacekeepers are stationed, pointed out Mr Chekhoyev. "Russian troops are stationed on Georgian territory as well," he added. He did not rule out incidents involving the military.

Aleksandr Shabanov, chairman of the Duma geopolitics commission, gave a picturesque description of the agreement as the "the initial phase of the construction of a US military base in Transcaucasia." The base will be constructed on the basis of the military infrastructure built in the Soviet time, he suggested.

"The State Duma does not intend to interfere into affairs of the two sovereign countries, Georgia and the US, but deems it necessary to voice apprehension and report its viewing to the president of Russia," emphasised Mr Shabanov.

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