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Georgian policeman killed near Russian checkpoint

 Georgian policeman killed near Russian checkpoint
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A Georgian policeman has been shot dead near a Russian checkpoint in a buffer zone next to breakaway South Ossetia.

Police said the shot came from the direction of the Russian checkpoint, but Russian forces have denied involvement in the killing.

Authorities in South Ossetia also said they had nothing to do with the shooting.

Russia agreed on Monday to withdraw its soldiers from security zones outside the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia within a month.

Today, its troops began dismantling a checkpoint in a village near Khobi, close to the de facto border with Abkhazia.

Russia has also pledged to pull out within a week from the area around Georgia’s Black Sea port of Poti.

However, it said yesterday that it planned to station some 7,600 soldiers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia – more than twice the number based in the two regions before last month’s war.

The troops around Abkhazia and South Ossetia are to be replaced by an international monitoring force, including a 200-strong contingent from the European Union.

Russia said today that there would be no EU observers inside the separatist regions, only observers from the UN and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE.

This contradicts a statement on Monday by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who said EU troops would enter Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Yesterday, Russia urged the UN security council to impose an embargo on arms destined for Georgia.

The US denounced the idea, saying it was an attempt by Russia to draw attention away from its continued military presence in Georgia.

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