INTERNATIONAL

S-300 air defence missiles deployed in Abkhazia

Russia has deployed S-300 air defence missiles in Abkhazia, Georgia's former breakaway region, said a top military official.

“We have deployed the S-300 system on the territory of Abkhazia,” Air Force Commander-in-Chief General Alexander Zelin told reporters on Wednesday. “It will provide anti-aircraft defence to the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in cooperation with the air defence systems of the [Russian] army.”

The announcement came days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev visited Abkhazia to pledge all-round support for the country. Russia recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states two years ago in the wake of a five-day war it waged to repulse Georgia's armed attack on South Ossetia.

Georgia angrily reacted to the Russian move claiming it changed the regional balance of forces.

“The deployment of this class of air defence systems is not only aimed against Georgia, it also changes the balance of forces in the region,” said Georgia's State Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili.

Appeal against panic

AFP reports: Fires in Russia have hit areas contaminated by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster but much of the pollution remains deep in the soil and there is no reason for panic, said officials and experts on Wednesday.

Officials said they closely monitored the contaminated areas, including the Bryansk region bordering Ukraine and Belarus whose soils were heavily contaminated by the 1986 disaster in then Soviet Ukraine. Experts admitted the fires may reshuffle the location of the contaminated particles by moving them to other areas but added that much of them had already seeped into the lower layers of soil. “There is no reason for panic,” an official told AFP.

“Part of the contaminating substances will be shifted with the smoke,” he said. But “what's burning is on the surface, part of the contaminating substances has gone into bed deposits which are the last to burn”.

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