Russia has taken a major step towards withdrawing its military forces. Moscow agreed with Tbilisi in May to close down Batumi and its other base at Akhalkalaki by the end of 2008. The arrival of two landing ships on the Black Sea coast marks a major step in Russia’s pull-out. Bad weather in the area had hampered the operation which had been due to start three days ago but some forty tanks and armoured personnel carriers have been removed already.There have been Russian forces in the country for more than two centuries. However, tension’s been high in recent years between Moscow and Tbilisi over two flashpoint Georgian regions and the war-torn Russian republic of Chechnya.