August 18, 2008 / 1:00 PM / in 12 years

UPDATE 1-Georgia says Russian forces destroying munitions

(Adds detail of Russian action, background)

TBILISI, Aug 18 (Reuters) - The Georgian Interior Ministry accused Russian forces on Monday of blowing up stores of Georgian ammunition and weaponry at a base near the western town of Senaki, ahead of a planned withdrawal from Georgia.

Spokesman Shota Utiashvili said Moscow’s troops had also destroyed the runway at the base, which lies about 240 km (150 miles) west of the capital Tbilisi.

“They are destroying everything and then pulling out of these places,” he said. “If they call this a pullout, then I do not understand the meaning of the word.”

He said a column later left the base, heading northwards.

Russia announced on Monday it had started a military pull-back from areas of Georgia under a ceasefire brokered by France to end conflict over the Russian-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia.

A Reuters journalist in Senaki said he heard three loud explosions but was not allowed to enter the area. He said a Russian official had given advance warning that there would be controlled explosions.

Explosions were also heard in the Gori area of central Georgia, though there were no reports of fighting.

Russian forces have moved into many Georgian military bases, airfields and military warehouses in the course of the 10-day conflict, taking away and destroying equipment. There have also been attacks on many airfields.

The Georgian military, equipped in Soviet times with Russian arms, has been outfitted and trained by the United States in recent years. (Reporting by Margarita Antidze; editing by Ralph Boulton and Michael Stott)

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