Russian troops to patrol Georgian port Poti (Lead)

August 23rd, 2008 - 7:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Aug 23 (RIA Novosti) Russia said Saturday its troops will patrol the Georgian Black Sea port of Poti as two NATO warships entered the Black Sea through the Bosporus Strait.”These patrols were envisaged in the international agreement,” Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of Russia’s General Staff, said at a news conference.

“Poti is outside of the security zone, but that does not mean we will sit behind a fence watching them riding around in Hummers,” the general said.

Two more NATO ships, a Polish frigate and a US destroyer, passed through the Bosporus Strait and entered the Black Sea Friday evening to boost the alliance’s presence there while delivering humanitarian cargoes to Georgia, a source in the Turkish Navy said.

Nogovitsyn said 64 Russian servicemen had been killed in the recent conflict, with more than 370 injured.

“We do not gather statistics on the death toll among civilians, but according to South Ossetia’s interior ministry 2,100 people were killed in the conflict,” he said.

Georgia lost 215 of its nationals in the conflict, including 13 policemen, 133 military personnel and 69 civilians, Givi Targamadze, who heads the Georgian parliament’s defense and security committee, said Wednesday.

Nogovitsyn also warned that Russia could increase the number of its peacekeepers in Georgia’s two breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia if Washington helped Georgia to beef up its military potential.

The general said Russia would deploy 2,142 peacekeepers in Abkhazia, but that the number of peacekeepers in South Ossetia would be fixed at a later date.

The military official also said Russia had set up 18 peacekeeping posts in South Ossetia and would build as many in Abkhazia “in order to avert looters and the transportation of arms and ammunition.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Financial Times, Georgian Deputy Defence Minister Batu Kuteliya said that Georgia had decided to attack South Ossetia’s capital, Tskhinvali, despite the insufficient amount of anti-tank and air defenses to protect its armed forces against potential serious resistance.

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