Defense minister: Russia to deploy additional troops near border with Georgia

Russia will deploy additional troops near the border with Georgia to prevent terrorists from crossing into the country, Russia's defense minister said Monday in a statement that reflected tense relations between the two ex-Soviet neighbors.

Sergei Ivanov said in televised remarks that the additional motorized infantry units would be deployed alongside border guards to help seal the frontier against "terrorists' infiltration to Russia from the territory of Georgia."

Russia long has accused Georgia of failing to uproot Chechen rebels on its territory and prevent them from crossing the rugged mountainous border into Chechnya, where Russian forces are battling insurgents in a second war in a decade. Georgia said it had driven out militants, and accused Russia of failing to enforce reliable border controls.

Georgian officials also had criticized Moscow for trying to drag out its military presence in Georgia to keep a foothold in the country that the Kremlin regards as part of its historical sphere of influence. Russia has watched with dismay as Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili pursued closer relations with the West and boosted military cooperation with the United States.

Following months of wrangling, Russia agreed last month to begin withdrawing its two Soviet-era bases in Georgia by the end of the year and complete the pullout over the course of 2008 - the deal that was a key victory for Saakashvili.

In addition to the bases, Russia and Georgia have sparred over other issues such as Russia's close relations with the governments in Abkhazia and South Ossetia - two regions that broke away from Georgia during wars in the 1990s.

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