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Georgian Minister Temur Yakobashvili yesterday praised Israel for its role in training Georgian troops and said Israel should be proud of its military might.

"Israel should be proud of its military, which trained Georgian soldiers," Yakobashvili, who is Jewish, told Army Radio in Hebrew. He was referring to a private Israeli group Georgia had hired.

Yakobashvili, Georgia's minister of reintegration, said this training enabled Georgia to defend itself against Russian forces in the warfare that erupted last week in the separatist region of South Ossetia, Georgia.

Yakobashvili said a small group of Georgian soldiers were able to wipe out an entire Russian military division, thanks to the Israeli training.

"We killed 60 Russian soldiers yesterday alone," said Yakobashvili. "The Russians have lost more than 50 tanks, and we have shot down 11 of their planes. They have sustained enormous damage in terms of manpower."

Yakobashvili warned that the Russians would try to open another front in Abkhazia, another separatist region in Georgia, and he denied reports that the Georgian army was retreating. "The Georgian forces are not retreating. We move our military according to security needs," he said.

He also denied that Russian troops had struck Georgia's international airport.

"There was no attack on the airport in Tbilisi. It was a factory that produces combat airplanes," said Yakobashvili.

"The whole world is starting to understand that what is happening here will determine the future of this region, the future price of crude oil, the future of central Asia, and the future of NATO," the Georgian minister added. "Every bomb that falls over our heads is an attack on democracy, on the European Union and on America."