Russian troops 'open second front'

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The Independent Online

Russia opened a second front of fighting in Georgia today, sending armoured vehicles beyond two breakaway provinces and seizing a military base in the country's west, officials said.

The development indicates that Russian troops have invaded Georgia proper from the separatist province of Abkhazia while most Georgian forces are locked up in fighting around South Ossetia.

Russian armored personnel carriers rolled into the base in Senaki, a town in Western Georgia about 20 miles inland from the Black Sea port of Poti, Georgian Security Council secretary Alexander Lomaia said.

Russian forces also moved into the town of Zugdidi where they seized police stations, Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said. Abkhazian forces took control of the nearby village of Kurga, he said.

Earlier, Russia had warned Georgian forces west of Abkhazia they faced Russian military action if they did not lay down their weapons. Senaki is located about 30 miles east of the Inguri River, which divides Abkhazia from the rest of Georgia.

In Moscow, a government official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to give his name, confirmed that the Russian military moved into Senaki as part of efforts to end Georgian resistance in the area around South Ossetia.

The Russian move is certain to draw a strong condemnation from the West, which has sharply criticized Russia's military response to Georgia's attack on South Ossetia as disproportionate.

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