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Hundreds of Russian soldiers withdraw from west Georgia

September 14, 2008|From the Associated Press

TBILISI, GEORGIA — Hundreds of Russian forces packed up and withdrew from positions Saturday in western Georgia, and a Georgian official said Russia had met a deadline for a partial pullout a month after the war between the two former Soviet republics.

Russian soldiers and armored vehicles rolled out of six checkpoints and temporary bases in the Black Sea port of Poti and other areas nearby, Georgian Security Council chief Alexander Lomaia said.

"They have fulfilled the commitment" to withdraw from the area by Sept. 15 under an agreement European Union leaders reached with Russia last week, Lomaia said.

But he emphasized that Georgia, like the West, demands a full Russian withdrawal to pre-conflict positions, in accordance with a cease-fire deal brokered a month ago.

Adding to tension, Georgian authorities said a Georgian police officer at a post near Abkhazia was killed Saturday by gunfire from the direction of a position where Abkhazian and Russian forces have been based.

Lomaia said about 1,200 Russian servicemen remain at 19 checkpoints and other positions, 12 outside South Ossetia and seven outside Abkhazia. Russia said it would pull them out by Oct. 11 if 200 European Union observers are deployed to strips of territory surrounding the two separatist regions by Oct. 1.

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