EU monitors have started entering a Russian-controlled buffer zone around Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Some 200 observers have deployed under the French-brokered ceasefire which requires Moscow to pull out its troops within 10 days.
The EU has temporarily suspended all talks on a partnership pact with Moscow until it complies with its part of the treaty.
The Russian foreign ministry has confirmed troops will complete the handover to EU mintors in the buffer zones by October 10th – a commitment echoed by president Dmitry Medvedev:
“Our peacekeepers are cooperating with the EU observers and by the agreed dates, they will be fully withdrawn from the territory of Georgia,” Medvedev told journalists gathered in St Petersburg.
Keen to avoid a security vacuum that could be exploited by militias, the EU mission is hoping to combine the withdrawal of Russian forces with a return of Georgian police to the buffer zones.
Thousands of villagers have fled the area and say they are afraid of Russian troops and want them to leave.
However, Moscow has said no monitors will be allowed inside South Ossetia itself or the other the breakaway region of Abkhasia. The Kremlin plans to deploy more than 7,000 soldiers in both territories.