Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 17 Aug.’08
Russia will start its troops’ withdrawal from Georgia on August 18, President Medvedev told his French counterpart, Nikola Sarkozy, on Sunday. “Noting on the need of unconditional and clear fulfillment by the Georgian side its commitment to pull back its forces back to their barracks, President Medvedev informed President Sarkozy, that starting from tomorrow Russia would start withdrawing its military contingent, which were sent to reinforce the Russian peacekeeping troops in the face of Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia,” the Kremlin said in its press release on August 17.
“The two Presidents have also agreed to continue regular contacts,” it also said.
Anatoly Nogovitsin, deputy chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, said earlier Sunday that preparations for troops’ withdrawal were underway,
“We are talking about gradual return of the Russian military units to the places of their permanent location on the territory of the Russian Federation,” he said at a news conference in Moscow.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported earlier on Sunday quoting Maj. Gen. Alexander Borisov, who is a commanding officer on the ground in Gori and surrounding areas, that “columns are moving from Tskhinvali to Russia.”
“You must understand there are a large amount of troops,” he said suggesting that the withdrawal would take some time.
A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman specified after those remarks by the Russian commander were reported, that the Russian troops’ movement was a preparation for the withdrawal and not an actual pull out itself.
Russian soldiers are maintaining positions around Gori and on the key highway. Maj. Gen. Borisov also said that his units would remain on their positions to provide protection to military pullout. “We were the first in, so we’ll be the last out,” he said.
Meanwhile, a local resident in Khashuri, a town close to Gori, in the west, told Civil.Ge on August 17, that locals had seen Russian soldiers at the Georgia’s military barracks in Osiauri, close to Khashuri.
“Systematic destruction of our military infrastructure and a seemingly random but no less painful … degradation of our civilian infrastructure,” Georgia’s PM Lado Gurgenidze told BBC World late on August 16.
Meanwhile, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said that the Abkhaz militiamen took control over the two Georgian villages on the border – Ganmukhuri and Khurcha, which are administratively part of the Zugdidi district.
“Abkhazian separatist government set up temporary administration,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.
Anatoly Nogovitsin, deputy chief of the general staff of the Russian armed forces, also said on Sunday that the Russian forces took control over the major hydro power plant on the Enguri river “to provide conditions for unrestricted work of the plant and to provide security to the plant’s personnel.”