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No signs of Russian exit from Georgia

IGOETI, Georgia — Despite assurances that it would withdraw troops from Georgia starting Monday, the Russian military operated with impunity as its forces moved convoys in and out of the city of Gori and plowed through a police roadblock in this town some 25 miles northwest of Tbilisi, the capital.

In Washington, senior defense officials cited "troubling" intelligence that Russia had set up short-range ballistic missile launchers in South Ossetia. The SS-21 missiles have a range of 40 to 70 miles, meaning they can reach the capital from practically any part of South Ossetia, which Russian forces now occupy.

The officials, who declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the subject, also said there was no significant Russian movement out of Georgia.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on her way to an emergency meeting of NATO foreign ministers, said Russia was playing a "very dangerous game and perhaps one the Russians want to reconsider."

The United States, which has refused to send direct military aid to Georgia, continued providing what officials said were humanitarian supplies. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said three C-17's and one C-9 transport plane flew to Georgia on Monday, and as of today, there will be a daily flight of a C-17 cargo plane.

The deputy head of the Russian military's general staff, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, said in Moscow that Russian troops were being drawn back to the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which sits just on the Georgia-Russia border, but there was little evidence in both the west and center of the country to indicate that was happening. As has been the case throughout the 10-day conflict — which began with a Georgian military move into South Ossetia — Russian commanders seemed intent on showing they controlled the ground.

Russian forces dominated the country's vital road and rail arteries, held military bases they had seized from the Georgian army, and occupied Gori, a strategically important city and the birthplace of the late Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Military convoys continued to move in and out of Gori all afternoon, including tanks and an antiaircraft gun. The day before, dozens of Russian supply trucks were seen driving from the direction of South Ossetia into the city.

Who's in charge

A scene in Igoeti made plain the Russian eagerness to demonstrate its military prowess. A Russian army officer approached a Georgian police checkpoint leading off the main road and demanded that the Georgians clear the way.

"You have five minutes to move your cars," he told the Georgian policeman. And then it was three minutes. The Georgian, addressing the Russian as "Mr. Colonel," pleaded: "I have an order. I cannot move my cars."

A few minutes later, the Russian waved his hand, and an armored fighting vehicle plowed through the roadblock of Georgian police cars, its tracks crushing into their sides.

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Who's in charge?

A scene in Igoeti made plain the Russian eagerness to demonstrate its military prowess. A Russian army officer approached a Georgian police checkpoint leading off the main road and demanded that the Georgians clear the way.

"You have five minutes to move your cars," he told the Georgian policeman. And then it was three minutes. The Georgian, addressing the Russian as "Mr. Colonel," pleaded: "I have an order. I cannot move my cars." A few minutes later, the Russian waved his hand, and an armored fighting vehicle plowed through the roadblock of Georgian police cars, its tracks crushing into their sides.

No signs of Russian exit from Georgia 08/18/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 2, 2010 1:15pm]

    

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