There have been conflicting reports in the Russian media about deployment of Russia’s T-90 main battle tanks in Abkhazia.
The Russian daily, Vedomosti, reported on May 19 quoting unnamed official from the Russian Ministry of Defense that Russia had already deployed T-90s, the most modern tank currently in service with the Russian army, in Abkhazia.
But on the same day, Interfax news agency reported, also quoting an unnamed official from the Russian MoD, that there were no plans for deployment of T-90s in Abkhazia.
“There is no place for such military hardware in Abkhazia,” Interfax quoted the source. “At first local landscape in Abkhazia with mountainous areas does not allow to effectively use T-90. And on the other hand, the military base [in Abkhazia] is not tasked with conducting large-scale offensive operations.”
According to the same source, instead the Russian military forces in Abkhazia would mainly have light armored vehicles, including armored personnel carriers and infantry combat vehicles.
“Insignificant number of T-62 tanks, which have demonstrated good capabilities in combat operations in mountainous areas of Chechnya, will also be available” for the Russian forces in Abkhazia, the source said.
According to the same report, Russia plans to deploy a long range surface-to-air missile system, S-300, to provide protection of Gudauta military airdrome, where unit of Russian air forces will be deployed. Deployment of air defense unit with Tunguska self-propelled anti-aircraft weapons is also planned in Gudauta, according to the same report.
Alexandr Kolmakov, the Russian deputy defense minister, said on May 19 that Russia military were now thinking about the forms of a long-term deployment of troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“We are now studying this issue. Maybe there is no reason for the [military] bases to be deployed with their full capacity on the Abkhaz and South Ossetian territories. Part of those forces may be deployed on the territory of the Russian Federation,” Interfax quoted Kolmakov.
He also said that Russia would make “adjustments” to planned large-scale military exercises in North Caucasus next month in the face of ongoing NATO exercises in Georgia. “We are watching and evaluating everything that is happening there [in Georgia during military exercises in frames of Partnership for Peace],” Kolmakov said.
Kavkaz-2009 military exercises, he said, would be “comparable to those held during the Soviet Union,” involving nearly all the units based in the North Caucasus region and also some other units from other parts of Russia.
Meanwhile, about 800 Russian border guards are taking positions on the 160 kilometer Abkhaz “state border” with Georgia in accordance to the April 30 treaty with Russia.
The Russian Border Guard Service, which is under the Federal Security Service subordination, said it would complete structural formation of its unit in Abkhazia by the end of this month.
Two departments will be created – one in charge of land border with headquarters in the Gali district and another one in charge of maritime perimeter with headquarters in Gagra. Total of twenty border crossing points will operate, according to the statement released by the Russian Border Guard Service unit in charge of Abkhazia, Apsnipress news agency reported. As soon as the process of structural arrangement is over the Russian border guards will start performing duties at the border with Georgia alongside with the Abkhaz forces, according to the statement.
Meanwhile, the Russian media sources reported that 33 medics from the Russian Federal Security Service’s Central Hospital arrived in Abkhazia on May 17 “to provide medical service to the local population of Gali, Ochamchire and Tkvarcheli districts.” Another group of Russian medics are expected to arrive in Abkhazia on May 23, according to the same report. Russia has also sent about 15 tones of humanitarian aid to Abkhazia, involving equipment for schools and also medicines, according to the Russian media reports.