Russia has announced its promised troop pullout from Georgia is complete. But Moscow’s definition of a withdrawal falls far short of what its critics are demanding. Russia says it will keep a permanent military presence in a large buffer zone bordering Georgia’s breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Tbilisi is furious, arguing this is really an attempt to annexe Georgian territory and saying it will not be tolerated.
The US disputes Russia’s claims it has complied with a French-brokered ceasefire agreement. Presidents Bush and Sarkozy are putting up a united front.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said: “The President spoke by phone to French President Sarkozy….” “They shared assessments on the situation in Georgia. The two agreed that Russia is not in compliance and that Russia needs to come into compliance now.”
So, despite the Russians packing up and moving out of the flashpoint Georgian town of Gori, what it all means is up for debate.
Russia and its neighbour went to war after Georgia attempted to retake South Ossetia which, like Abkhazia, has unilaterally declared independence. Both pro-Russian regions have now made fresh, formal appeals for recognition, not least from Moscow.
As Georgian security forces reclaim territory abandoned by Moscow’s military, the US has revealed it warned Georgia against trying to retake South Ossetia by force on the very eve of Tbilisi’s attack.