The presence of Russian troops - based in Georgia since the collapse of the Soviet Union - had been a constant irritant between the two countries.
 
Pullout confirmed
 
Early on Thursday, General Alexei Maslov, a top Russian military official, confirmed that Russia was pulling out its troops from Georgia.
 
"There are no more Russian troops in Georgia, there remain only peacekeepers ... in Abkhazia, and those that are part of the combined forces in South Ossetia with the participation of Georgia," the RIA-Novosti quoted him as saying.

 

Maslov's aide, Colonel Igor Konashenkov, said the final convoy of troops and equipment based in Batumi in southwest Georgia had already crossed into Armenia to set up base in the northern town of Gyumri. 

 

Russia pulled out its troops from the Akhalkalaki base in June following increased scrutiny and criticism of its activities in Georgia.

 

Russia blamed

 

Mikhail Saakashvili, the Georgian president, imposed emergency rule after police crushed street protests and raided an opposition television station last week.

 

He accused Russia of staging the protests in an attempt to overthrow his government.

 

Facing a barrage of complaints that he was cracking down on democratic freedoms, Saakashvili last week set a snap presidential election for January 5 in a move aimed at defusing the tension with the opposition.

 

Saakashvili defended the emergency rule this week, saying that Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, had threatened to divide the nation permanently along ethnic lines.