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INTERVIEW-Russian intervention in Ukraine "highly unlikely"-Georgia

Source: Reuters - Thu, 27 Feb 2014 12:12 GMT
Author: Reuters
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* Georgian minister concerned at Russian exercise

* Believes Russia unlikely to intervene in Ukraine

* Says 2008 war showed Russia's military deficiencies

By Adrian Croft

BRUSSELS, Feb 27 (Reuters) - The defence minister of Georgia, which fought a brief war with Russia in 2008, voiced concern on Thursday about Moscow putting its forces in western Russia on alert but said a Russian military intervention in Ukraine was highly unlikely.

"Russia occupies almost 20 percent of my territory and they got away with the military aggression in 2008," Irakly Alasania told Reuters in an interview in Brussels.

He said he was "of course" concerned by President Vladimir Putin's order on Wednesday for 150,000 troops to be ready for war games near Ukraine, but a Russian military intervention in Ukraine was a "highly unlikely scenario."

Alasania said the 2008 war had shown that Russia's military capabilities were lower than people had previously thought.

"They know that and they know that NATO knows this," he said. "So I think they know they cannot call a bluff (by) threatening to use military force. It is not going to happen," he said.

Alasania said Ukraine and the West should do all they could to provide a "face-saving" way out of the Ukraine crisis for Russia and that the West should provide a big financial package for Ukraine. (Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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