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Georgia begins US-led military exercise a day before Mike Pence visit

In previous years, Russia warned that the drills could destabilise the region, a charge denied by Georgian officials and US diplomats.

world Updated: Jul 30, 2017 19:58 IST
US vice president Mike Pence,Georgia,Nato
Slovenian servicemen take part in military exercises at the Vaziani military base near Tbilisi, Georgia on July 30, 2017.(Reuters)

The Georgian army began two weeks of military exercises with the United States and other partner countries on Sunday, a day before US vice president Mike Pence visits the ex-Soviet nation.

About 2,800 soldiers from the United States, Britain, Germany, Turkey, Ukraine, Slovenia, Armenia and Georgia were taking part in the manoeuvres, with Washington dispatching an entire mechanised company including several Bradley infantry fighting vehicles and M1A2 Abrams main battle tanks.

Georgia’s Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said the drills were an important event for the South Caucasus republic.

“These exercises will help Georgia to get closer to Nato standards and to strengthen stability in the whole region,” Kvirikashvili said at the opening ceremony on Sunday.

The “Noble Partner” exercises are being held in Georgia for the third time. Russian officials had not commented on the event yet, but in previous years Moscow warned that drills could destabilise the region, a charge denied by Georgian officials and US diplomats.

“This exercise is not directed against any country. It’s about to help Georgia to grow its capacity to interoperate in international operations,” US ambassador Ian Kelly told Reuters.

Russia and Georgia fought a war in August 2008 over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia. Moscow continues to garrison troops there and to support another breakaway region, Abkhazia.

The exercises were being run out of the Vaziani military base near Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi.

First Published: Jul 30, 2017 19:58 IST