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Russia keeps grip on Georgia's breakway republics

Russian soldiers sit atop an armored vehicle as they leave positions in the Georgian village of Karaleti, 56 miles west of the capital, Tbilisi, on Wednesday.

Associated Press

Russian soldiers sit atop an armored vehicle as they leave positions in the Georgian village of Karaleti, 56 miles west of the capital, Tbilisi, on Wednesday.

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On Wednesday, Russia and Georgia were already bickering over whether the troops had fully withdrawn.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 A European Union monitor also said that Russia appeared to have withdrawn from most of Georgia proper.

Election call adds to Ukraine turmoil

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, pictured, dissolved Parliament Wednesday and called an early election, dashing hopes for the revival of a pro-Western coalition and throwing this politically volatile ex-Soviet nation into further turmoil. The vote will be the third parliamentary election in as many years and deals a severe blow to an economy already battered by the global financial crisis. The date of the election was not announced. The decision culminates a fierce battle between Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, his estranged former partner in the Orange Revolution that shook the nation loose from Russian influence.

Russia keeps grip on Georgia's breakway republics 10/08/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 3, 2010 3:13pm]
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