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Georgia Charges Russia Violating Hours-Old Truce

By Emma Stickgold


13 August 2008

Georgia says dozens of Russian tanks rolled into a strategic city and seized a military base, violating an EU-mediated agreement to end a six-day conflict. Emma Stickgold reports for VOA from Moscow that Russia said some of its soldiers went into the Georgian city of Gori, but denied the report of tanks.

Russia and Georgia agreed to the cease-fire plan after French President Nicolas Sarkozy met Tuesday with leaders in Moscow and Tblisi.

But Georgian officials said dozens of tanks were heading into Gori, a town that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili says Russia pummeled in the attacks.

"As I speak the Russian tanks are attacking the town of Gori and are rampaging through the town," he said.

The city of 50,000 people sits on Georgia's only significant east-west road about 15 miles south of South Ossetia, the separatist province where much of the fighting has taken place.

Russian officials say they have no military forces in Gori, but some Russians went into the city to try to implement the truce with local Georgian officials. A Russian commander said Georgian troops have been slow to withdraw from the front lines.

To the west, Georgian troops say they have pulled out of the last small section of Abkhazia they had controlled, leaving the area in the hands of Russian-backed separatists.

The six-point ceasefire plan Russia agreed to Tuesday included one point that said the international community should review the fate of Georgia's breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But Mr. Saakashvili said the territorial integrity of the breakaway regions can never be put under doubt and Georgia removed the point from its final agreement.

But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters the issues cannot be resolved without addressing the regions' status.

Lavrov said that as soon as Georgian troops withdraw to their barracks, Russian troops will return to Russia.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said Russian military forces have achieved their objective in Georgia and that security for civilians and Russian troops permanently based in the region has been restored.

Russia has come under increasing international pressure since launching a major air and ground attack following a Georgian attack last Friday on the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Several regional leaders say they now feel wary about Russia's involvement in the fight, with some saying they will have to re-evaluate their country's relationship with Russia. U.S. President George Bush has called Russia's response, to Georgia's military offensive, disproportionate.

Russia called Wednesday a day of mourning for the loss of lives in the conflict, although exact figures of the death toll are widely disputed. About 100,000 people have been displaced by the fighting.

Georgia and Russia are considering options for suing one another for war crimes through the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

The recent violence was the worst to break out since South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in 1992. South Ossetians are eager to join fellow Ossetians in North Ossetia, which was put within Russian borders after the 1991 Soviet Union collapse.

Separatists in Abkhazia took control of most of the province from Georgia in 1993.

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