A convoy of Russian military trucks and other hardware left a Soviet-era base in Georgia on Thursday en route to Armenia, in the latest pullout of Russian military equipment from the Caucasus Mountain nation.
After months of contentious negotiations, Georgia and Russia reached agreement last year on pulling Russian forces out of two bases.
The first convoy of trucks set out from the base at Akhalkalaki last week; Thursday's convoy of 54 communications trucks and other materiel was the second major shipment from the Black Sea port of Batumi, said Colonel Vladimir Kuparadze, deputy commander of the Russian troops in the southern Caucasus. Another six convoys would be departing Batumi in coming months, he said.
"A first column arrived at Gyumri, home to the 102nd Russian Base. There will be many more columns," the head of the Armenian military's general staff, Mikael Harutiunian, said in Yerevan.
Harutiunian also said that the equipment being transferred from Russia's Akhalkalaki base in southern Georgia consists mainly of communications equipment and non-armored vehicles. "Under the terms of an agreement with the Russian side, tanks and other armored vehicles will not be transferred to Armenia. They will be sent to Russia," he said.
Both Russian bases in Georgia are scheduled to be fully closed by the end of 2008, with much of the equipment to be shipped to the Russian base at Gyumri, Armenia. The agreement to withdraw Russian forces from Georgia was a victory for pro-Western President Mikhail Saakashvili, who has sought to reduce Russian influence.