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Russian troops continue Georgia pull out - General Staff

RIA Novosti

20/08/2008 16:27 MOSCOW, August 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russia continues to withdraw its troops from Georgia despite the tense situation in the South Ossetian conflict zone, a senior Russian military official said Wednesday.

"The Russian armed forces act strictly in accordance with the international agreements and continue the withdrawal of troops to places of previous deployment," said Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian General Staff.

Russia began pulling back troops from Georgia on Monday in accordance with a six-point plan drawn up by the Russian and French presidents. It has criticized Georgian troops for not following orders to leave the South Ossetia conflict zone.

Nogovitsyn said tensions in the area were being exacerbated by NATO's role in rebuilding the Georgian army.

"We consider such 'peacemaking' [on the part of NATO], when the aggressor, which was earlier abundantly armed, is being restored, a clear factor provoking a new blitzkrieg," Nogovitsyn said.

He warned that the Russian military would take "appropriate measures" to neutralize such a threat.

Russia will also insist on creating no-fly zones for Georgian aircraft and giving its peacekeepers the right to carry out reconnaissance missions, Nogovitsyn said.

"If the zone is under peacekeepers' control, nobody else should fly there," he said, adding that another Georgian unmanned aircraft was downed in South Ossetia on Tuesday.

Asked about Russian military losses in South Ossetia, Nogovitsyn said 64 service personnel had been killed and another 323 injured.

"The number of those killed has been revised downward - from 74, as announced on August 10, to 64," he said, without elaborating.

Georgia lost 215 of its nationals in the conflict, including 13 policemen, 133 military personnel and 69 civilians, said Givi Targamadze, who heads the Georgian parliament's defense and security committee.

Targmadze said 1,469 Georgians had been wounded and 70 servicemen were currently missing. The number of missing Georgian civilians has not so far been disclosed.

Authorities in Georgia's breakaway republic of South Ossetia said Wednesday that 1,492 of the province's residents were killed in Georgia's August 8 military offensive, according to revised data.

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