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Medvedev promises pullout by 22 August

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Medvedev promises pullout by 22 August

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President Dmitri Medvedev has pledged that Russia will pull its troops in Georgia back to the positions set out in a French-brokered ceasefire agreement.

The Kremlin said that Medvedev had told France’s President Nicolas Sarkozy in a telephone call that “by 22 August… a part of the peacekeepers will be pulled back to the temporary security zone.”

“The remaining contingent that was used to reinforce the peacekeepers will be pulled back to the territory of South Ossetia and to Russia,” the Kremlin said.

For the moment, there is certainly plenty of movement of troops in places like the central Georgian town of Igoeti, and in Gori near South Ossetia where commanders arranged for journalists to watch a small column of armoured vehicles drive north. But nearby other troops were digging trenches around artillery positions.

Georgia has said that it believes the Russians have been dragging their feet to keep the economic pressure on and destabilise their country, which is why there are troops in places like Poti, hundreds of kilometres away from South Ossetia.

Witnesses said Russian trucks and helicopters have been taking crates and equipment from the port at Poti and the nearby airport.

Poti and Senaki, which is also occupied, are key gateways for oil and goods bound for the Caucasus states of Azerbaijan and Armenia as well as Central
Asia.

And the White House has said that if Russia has seized any US military equipment in Georgia it must be returned immediately. That followed reports that Russians had removed a container of US military humvee vehicles from a Georgian port.