A parliamentary resolution that seeks an early Russian withdrawal from military bases from Georgian territory is stirring concerns about what a pull-out will mean for the economic welfare of one Georgian town.
In a unanimous vote March 10, Georgian legislators called on President Mikheil Saakashvili to demand a full Russian troop withdrawal from two bases on Georgian territory by January 1, 2006, unless Russian officials agree to a mutually acceptable pull-out timetable before May 15. Saakashvili is not bound by law to implement the resolution, which is aimed at breaking a deadlock in base withdrawal negotiations. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. If Russia balks on the base issue, Georgia should simply shut down the two facilities one at the Black Sea port of Batumi, the other in Akhalkalaki, a town of 10,000 with a predominantly ethnic Armenian local population the resolution states.
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Molly Corso is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Tbilisi.