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19 Aug, 2008 17:20

Medvedev promises withdrawal by Friday

Russia will withdraw its peacekeeping contingent from Georgia to the temporary security zone by August 22. The rest of the troops will be moved back to South Ossetia and Russia. President Medvedev made the promise in a t

According to Russian authorities, it will take longer to withdraw than expected because many roads have been blocked or damaged.

Speaking at a news briefing in Moscow, Russian General Staff Deputy Head, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, said, “We are currently pulling out rear units and heavy weaponry”.

“We are also clearing withdrawal routes as the Georgian army left a lot of weaponry including tanks on the roads, which are hindering the withdrawal,” he said.

Nogovitsyn stressed the troops are not being completely withdrawn, but will be pulled back to the South Ossetian border to continue providing protection and stability in the region.   

“The decision made by the Joint Control Commission in 1999, which is the only legitimate document we are using as our guidelines and which has been signed by the Georgian side as well, says  that a special commission determines where peacekeeping forces will be located, based on the situation on the ground and the existing threats,” he explained.

Meanwhile, the Russian military is claiming that some of the Georgian military units in the region are acting without command and are out of President Saakashvili's control. They are allegedly preparing acts of sabotage against Russian troops stationed in the region.

Russian peacekeepers have disarmed a group of 20 servicemen in the Georgian coastal city of Poti, and have handed them over to Georgian authorities. Russian troops will remain in Poti until a local administration is formed in the city.

Prisoner exchange

On Tuesday Nogovitsyn confirmed Georgia had no more captured Russian servicemen. Russia handed 15 Georgian servicemen over to Georgia and received five Russians in exchange, including two pilots.