. According to Georgian sources, the personnel of the Group of Russian Forces in Transcaucasus may soon be reduced by as much as 70 percent, as part of general cuts in the Russian armed forces. The approximately 300 officers at the Group’s Tbilisi headquarters stand to be reduced to 60, and the Group itself will be resubordinated to the North Caucasus military district rather than to the Defense Ministry in Moscow. According to the same officials, Russian troops began in mid-February to withdraw some military hardware from the Akhaltsikh and Akhalkalaki ground-force bases and the Vaziani and Alekseyevka air-force bases, moving that hardware to Russia’s Rostov oblast. The Russian Federal Security Service units attached to the Group of Forces, and the military intelligence component of the Group itself, are also reported to be earmarked for removal to Rostov. Finally, the sources report that a Russian airborne battalion from Bombora airport in Abkhazia is in the process of relocating to Samara in Russia. (Iprinda, March 10)
These reports seem to fit in with the release of the Group of Forces commander, Col. Gen. Fyodor Reut. His as yet undesignated successor is likely to be of a lower rank, reflecting the Group’s reduced size and status. Russian border forces for their part have vacated the Ochamchira naval base in Abkhazia and relocated to Russia in the last few weeks. (See Monitor, March 5, 11)
NATO Chief in Kazakstan at Start of Regional Visit.