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Russia starts pullback in Georgia

NADARBAZEVI, Georgia — Russian troops began dismantling positions on Sunday in the so-called security zones inside Georgia that they have occupied since August's war, a sign Russia will fulfill its pledged pullback.

Moscow faces a Friday deadline for pulling back its troops under the terms of a deal brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on behalf of the European Union. Hundreds of EU observers began monitoring Russia's compliance last week.

A pullback would likely mean at least a mild reduction of tensions between Russia and the West following their worst confrontation since the Soviet collapse. But substantial points of dispute remain.

Russia was dismantling positions Sunday inside what it calls security zones, extending roughly 4 miles inside uncontested Georgian territory.

But Moscow vows to keep thousands of its troops stationed in two separatist Georgian regions that it recognizes as independent countries — South Ossetia and Abkhazia — which appears to stretch the terms of the cease-fire and which the Georgian government denounces.

The war began Aug. 7 when Georgian troops launched an offensive to regain control of South Ossetia, one of two Georgian separatist regions where Russia has troops stationed as peacekeepers.

Russia sent a large force that quickly routed the Georgian military and pushed deep into the former Soviet republic, occupying large swaths. Russia then declared what it called a security zone roughly 4 miles deep inside Georgia south of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

In late August, Russian troops mostly pulled back to those so-called security zones and last month they pulled out of some more positions, including six checkpoints and temporary bases in and near the Black Sea port of Poti. The presence in Poti had been particularly galling for Georgia because it is hundreds of miles from South Ossetia, where the war broke out.

Russia starts pullback in Georgia 10/05/08 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:42pm]
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