Russia mans Georgia checkpoints

US and France criticise presence of hundreds of 'peacekeepers' outside buffer zone.

    Hundreds of Russian soldiers continued to man checkpoints inside Georgia [AFP]

    "Should we sit behind the fence? What use would we be then? They [Georgian forces] will drive around in Hummers, move munitions around in trucks, and are we supposed to just count them?" he said.

    "We will be negotiating with them about the number and location of checkpoints in the future," Kakha Lomaia, Georgia's national security council secretary, said.

    He said the checkpoints were "not envisaged by any agreement, including the one which was mediated by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy".

    Up to 1,000 Georgians protested angrily on Saturday against the presence of about 20 Russian soldiers at a post just outside Poti, insisting they had no right to stay there.

    Pullout criticised

    Russian troops entered Georgia following Tbilisi's attack on South Ossetia on August 7.

    They then deployed throughout Abkhazia, another pro-Moscow breakaway region, and deep into the Georgian heartland.

    Moscow said it had completed its pullout from Georgia on Friday, abiding by its side of the European Union-sponsored six-point pact.

    Georgians have protested against Russia's continued military presence [AFP]
    But France, Great Britain and the United States have criticised Russia for failing to comply with the ceasefire agreement.

    Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said George Bush, the US president, and Sarkozy, "agreed that Russia is not in compliance and that Russia needs to come into compliance now".

    "Compliance means compliance with that plan," he said.

    "We haven't seen that yet. It's my understanding that they have not completely withdrawn from areas considered undisputed territory, and they need to do that."

    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.

    "We are in control of the streets of the city of Gori,'' Vano Merabishvili, Georgia's interior minister, said outside the city hall.

    South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Tbilisi in the early 1990s after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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