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Russian Military Trucks Leave Georgia, But No Major Pullout

By VOA News

20 August 2008

Witnesses say Russian military trucks have begun crossing from Georgia back into Russia, but they say there is no evidence of the large-scale withdrawal that the West has demanded.

Correspondents Wednesday reported several dozen trucks near the Roki tunnel connecting Georgian South Ossetia and Russian North Ossetia. Reuters news agency said the trucks were covered with tarpaulin and that most seemed to be empty. There were no reports of Russian armor leaving Georgia.

Western governments have complained repeatedly about Russian withdrawal delays after pullout promises from Russian President Dmitri Medvedev. At the United Nations Tuesday, Russia rejected a Security Council resolution demanding an immediate troop withdrawal.

In his latest pledge, Mr. Medvedev said the Russian withdrawal will be completed by Friday.

In a separate development, lawmakers in Georgia's breakaway republic of Abkhazia voted Wednesday to formally ask Russia to recognize Abkhazian independence. Russian lawmakers are set to debate the measure early next week.

In Moscow, Russian security officials say they have arrested a Russian army officer on suspicion of spying for Georgia. The officer has been identified as an ethnic Georgian.

A U.S. Senate delegation is headed to Georgia to assess the military situation and to show solidarity with the country's pro-Western government.

Russian President Medvedev told French President Nicolas Sarkozy Tuesday that most of the Russians who pushed into Georgia earlier this month will pull back to South Ossetia or go home to Russia. The Russian leader said some forces will move to what he called a temporary security zone around South Ossetia, one of the conditions of the French-mediated cease-fire.

Russia sent scores of tanks and thousands of troops into Georgia earlier this month, saying it had to protect Russian citizens. The move came after Georgia sent forces into South Ossetia, a breakaway Georgian region that favors Russia.

The Georgian operation was aimed at bringing the area back under Tbilisi's control.

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