The first Russian troops have begun to pull out of buffer zones between Georgia and its breakaway region of Abkhazia.
But, as the checkpoints were being dismantled, news came which was met with dismay by the West. Moscow announced plans to keep around
7,600 soldiers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia which is more than twice the number based there before last month’s conflict with Georgia.
Russia had pledged to withdraw its forces from undisputed Georgian territory on condition that international monitors were sent in: “The more international observers there are, the better. I hope that will at least stop the Georgian military regime from any stupid action,” said Russian President Dmitri Medvedev.
Questions remain about Russia’s role in the two separatist regions where most residents hold Russian passports.
Moscow has already endorsed their autonomy but that is deemed unacceptable by Georgia.The Georgian Minister for Reintegration, Temur Yakobashvili, said: “One thing is clear, the conflict is between Georgia and Russia in two regions of Georgia. And now the Russians are trying to bring on the negotiation table Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This is absolutely unacceptable for Georgia.”
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is sending a team to Georgia this week to assess needs for rebuilding its military. So far, only humanitarian aid has been sent. Moscow has called for a UN embargo on arms being sent to Tblisi.