Friday, August 22, 2008

Russian troops leave Gori, but problems remain

RFE/RL has details of Russian troop movements in Georgia today. While no troops remain in Gori, some have left for South Ossetia, while others have been seen moving in the direction of Igoeti. The situation still looks problematic. Excerpt:

"What we see is not very encouraging," Liklikadze said. "From the direction of Gori, three armored vehicles are moving in our direction, plus two trucks loaded with personnel. And they passed us and went in the direction of Igoeti. I asked one of the [Russian] officers at the checkpoint who was wearing a peacekeeping armband, and he said they don't intend to stay for long. When I asked him to be more concrete, he said, 'We are waiting for orders. I can't tell you anything. My boss is General Borisov."

RFE/RL correspondent Goga Aptsiauri gave this account of how Russian General Vyacheslav Borisov, commander of Russian forces in the Gori region, interprets the terms of withdrawal.

"Yesterday [August 21], General Borisov had a fairly heated discussion with [Gori regional Governor Vladimer] Vardzelashvili about the so-called buffer zone," Aptsiauri reports. "Borisov had all kinds of maps out and was referring to the 1992 [cease-fire] agreement, which stipulates that the conflict zone included quite a lot of villages north of Gori in Gori district -- including two villages that are located along the main east-west highway, Shavshvebi and Agara. So if we go with that agreement, it would mean that the so-called peacekeepers who would replace the regular Russian troops will have the right to control the main highway, and even establish checkpoints."

Goga Aptsiauri has been reporting from Gori ever since it was seized, and has a blog.

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