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Russia Accuses Georgia of Military Buildup near Breakaway Regions


A Russian Foreign Ministry official has accused Georgia of building up its military near the country's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and warned that Russian forces will defend the areas if they are attacked.

Valery Kenyaikin, the ministry official in charge of ties with members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, said Russia would like to believe pledges by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili that his country will not launch military operations. But he said Russian forces will defend their compatriots in the breakaway regions if they are attacked.

Georgian authorities have not yet responded to the official's charge.

Tensions between Georgia and Russia sharply increased after Sunday's downing of an unmanned Georgian reconnaissance aircraft over Abkhazia. Georgian officials said a Russian jet downed the craft. Russia called the flight a violation of cease-fire agreements and said Abkhazian forces shot it down.

Earlier, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced plans to send a special envoy to Georgia next week to try to ease tensions.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s, sparking fighting and the dispatch of Russian peacekeepers to the areas. Georgia has accused the peacekeepers of siding with the separatists and pledged to restore central government control in both regions.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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