KARALETI, Georgia — Russian troops dismantled checkpoints and decamped from Georgia proper Wednesday but held their ground in contested areas, setting the stage for more tension between the two countries that waged war in August.
The withdrawal brings a measure of relief but sheds little light on the bitter dispute over the future of Georgia's two breakaway republics, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Russia plans to leave thousands of troops stationed in the rebel regions, which Moscow has recognized as independent states and endowed with Russian passports for residents. Georgia, meanwhile, still aspires to bring the lands back under the control of the central government.
Georgia and the West argue that Russia's plans to leave its enlarged forces in the rebel regions, where it has long maintained peacekeeping forces, violate a French-brokered cease-fire deal.
With tensions high, several unsolved bombings have erupted in the breakaway regions.
On Wednesday, Russia and Georgia were already bickering over whether the troops had fully withdrawn.
The move was incomplete because Russian soldiers hadn't relinquished their grip on the disputed town of Akhalgori, said Alexander Lomaia, secretary of Georgia's national security council. Moscow considers Akhalgori part of South Ossetia.
But Russian officials made it plain that, in their view, the withdrawal was finished. A European Union monitor also said that Russia appeared to have withdrawn from most of Georgia proper.