Russians continue to blockade Gori

Rice in Tbilisi to push Georgia to sign cease-fire deal.

    Russian troops blocked the eastern road into Gori on Friday [AFP]

    Nazanine Moshiri, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Tskinvali, the South Ossetian capital, said it appeared that Russia is sending in more reinforcements.

    "We saw them arriving in the capital. South Ossetia has become a symbol of a powerful Russia, a Russia that seems to be expanding its territory," she said.

     Russian military vehicles were blocking the eastern road into the city on Friday, although they allowed in one Georgian bus filled with loaves of bread.

    In the city of Kutaisi, Georgia's second-largest city, there are no Russian troops despite reports they were headed in that direction overnight, according to Shota Utiashvili, a spokesman for the Georgian interior ministry.

    He confirmed, however, that troops remain in the Black Sea port city of Poti.

    Politicians blamed 

    Alexander Lomaia, the head of Georgia's national security council, said Gori was now "quiet, but there are problems with food." He said he was able to tour the city during the night.

    "There's no gas, no electricity, no water in the city," said a 56-year-old woman who refused to provide her name because she said the situation was too volatile.

    "It's all because of our leadership. It's not our fault, but we're the ones who suffer." 

    Map

     

    Key locations in the conflict

    Another resident, Sashka Korgisheli, 44, said he was among the Georgian forces who attacked South Ossetia but had since returned home and hidden his military uniform.

    "The situation is stabilising," he said. "We're expecting humanitarian help from Tbilisi, like bread and sugar."

    Many locals voiced frustration with the political leadership both of Georgia and Russia.

    "We don't want the war," said a 48-year-old man who declined to be identified by name.

    Referring to Mikheil Saakashvili, the Georgian president and Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, Russia's leaders, he added: "The people who sit in their armchairs, maybe they want it. But we don't want it."

    Rice in Tblisi

    Meanwhile, diplomats focused on finalising a fragile cease-fire between the two nations and clear the way for Russian withdrawal as Condelezza Rice, the US secretary of state, arrived in Tbilisi.

    Rice is expected to press Mikhail Saakashvili, the Georgian president, to sign the deal, which would require significant Georgian concessions.

    A woman attends to her wounded son, a soldier in the Georgian army [AFP]

    The French-brokered plan calls for the immediate withdrawal of Russian combat troops from Georgia, but allows Russian peacekeepers' who were in South Ossetia before it erupted in violence to remain and take a greater role there.

    Rice told reporters that the immediate goal is to get Russian combat forces out of Georgia and that more difficult questions can be addressed later.

    But she said the US would never ask Georgia to agree to something that was not in its best interests.

    Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, arrived in Russia on Friday to to discuss the conflict with Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president.

    Doubts over US supplies

    Meanwhile, Russia declared that its forces had seized US-made weapons from a Georgian military base near the town of Senaki, but added there had been no gunfire in Georgia in the past 24 hours.

    "Our forces have seized 1,728 arms in Senaki," Colonel-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, who is deputy head of Russia's general staff, told a news conference.

    Nogovitsyn expressed fresh doubts about the nature of US cargo being dispatched to Georgia.

    "We would like to know whether there is a humanitarian or some other kind of military cargo, but we don't have this information."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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