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Russia builds Ossetia 'buffer zone'
Troops fortifying area near South Ossetia with bases and no-fly rule for Georgia.
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2008 22:34 GMT
 Russia says peacekeepers will remain deployed near Abkhazia [AFP]

Russian troops are fortifying a "buffer zone" around the disputed South Ossetia region with eight military posts and a ban on Georgian aircraft, a senior Russian commander has said. 

Russia will also maintain a military presence around Abkhazia, another separatist region in the west of Georgia, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy head of Russia's general staff said in a televised news conference in Moscow on Wednesday.

He said: "We are establishing two lines of posts for the peacekeeping contingent" in South Ossetia.

"The buffer zone is stipulated by [previous] agreements, and Russian peacekeeping forces are allowed to move in it in the event a conflict breaks out," he said.

Nogovitsyn said only Russian planes will be allowed to fly over the buffer zone, making it a no-fly zone for Georgian aviation.

"Nobody else should fly there," the general said.

Russian peacekeepers will also stay on near Abkhazia in an area that includes a major Georgian air base, Nogovitsyn said. 

"The Senaki air base is within the zone of the peacekeepers' responsibility," he said.

Resolution rejected

Russia on Tuesday rejected a United Nations Security Council draft resolution demanding full compliance with the Georgia ceasefire, saying the text did not fully reflect a peace plan agreed to on Sunday.

The new French-proposed text, debated during an emergency council meeting in New York, demanded "full and immediate compliance with the ceasefire to which the parties have subscribed".

It also demanded "the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces to the lines held prior to the outbreak of hostilities [on August 7] and the return of Georgian forces to their usual bases".

The text also reaffirmed "the commitment of all member states to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders".

'Immediate withdrawal'

But Vitaly Churkin, Russia's UN ambassador, made it clear that his country would not accept the text because it did not include all six points listed in the peace plan agreed to between Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.

The six-point EU-brokered ceasefire plan demands the renunciation of the use of force, immediate cessation of hostilities, free access to humanitarian aid, and withdrawal of forces to pre-conflict positions, while allowing Russian to implement unspecified "additional security measures", according to the UN.

It also calls for international discussions on the conflict between Georgia and the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Churkin said he particularly objected to the absence of a provision for additional Russian security measures, and the call for immediate withdrawal of Russian forces, which he said went beyond the ceasefire deal.

Meanwhile, a German government spokesman said on Wednesday that there were no clear signs that Russia had started a withdrawal from Georgia, describing the situation as "very unsatisfactory".  

"At the moment we have no tangible indication that the Russian troop withdrawal has really started. That is a very unsatisfactory situation," Thomas Steg said.

Source:
Agencies
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