US and France criticise presence of hundreds of ‘peacekeepers’ outside buffer zone.
Moscow said it had completed its pullout from Georgia on Friday, abiding by its side of the European Union-sponsored six-point pact.
Sarkozy and Russia’s president, Dmitry Medvedev, also agreed on the need for an international mechanism under the auspices of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) along the buffer zone between South Ossetia and the city of Gori.
But Sarkozy “wanted the European Union to play a full part in this international mechanism … [which would] replace Russian patrols near the security zone south of Ossetia,” the statement from his office said.
The Kremlin said separately it was ready to co-operate with the OSCE, but General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, Russia’s deputy chief of staff, said that Russian troops would patrol and keep control over Poti, Georgia’s main commercial port.
“All activities of the Russian peacekeeping contingent are based on the six principles that were signed in the agreement by the presidents of Russia and France,” he said.
Kakha Lomaia, Georgia’s national security council secretary, said the checkpoints were “not envisaged by any agreement, including the one which was mediated by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy”.
About 1,000 Georgians expressed outrage over the continued presence of Russian troops in Poti on Saturday, approaching the post with Georgian flags and shouting “Russians go home”.
Sarkozy and Medvedev agreed that the issue needed to be resolved at the UN Security Council where, so far, talks have deadlocked, with members divided over two rival draft resolutions on the peace plan.
Russian troops entered Georgia following Tbilisi’s attack on South Ossetia on August 7.
|Russia says its continued presence is fully within the ceasefire [AFP]|
They then deployed throughout Abkhazia, another pro-Moscow breakaway region, and deep into the Georgian heartland.
Following the continued presence of Russia troops on Georgian territory, France, Great Britain and the United States criticised Russia for failing to comply with the ceasefire agreement.
Robert Wood, a US state department spokesman, said that the Russians had “without a doubt failed to live up to their obligations”.
“Establishing checkpoints, buffer zones, are definitely not part of the agreement.”
Frederic Desagneaux, a French foreign ministry spokesman, said that the ceasefire deal allows Russian peacekeeping forces to operate only “in the immediate proximity of South Ossetia” and only in patrols, suggesting that the new Russian posts outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia could be seen as violations.
Georgian security forces has said they have regained control of the strategically important town of Gori, 30km from South Ossetia, and of the main road from the capital Tbilisi to the Black Sea in the west.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Tbilisi in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.