Abkhazia: Russian Forces Withdraw Slowly
Russian forces have withdrawn from a disputed village near the […] South Ossetia region that Georgia had claimed was being occupied in violation of a ceasefire agreement, Georgian police said on Friday [12 December 2008].
"The Russians have pulled out and Georgian police will soon be in Perevi," interior ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili said.
He expressed hope that the move was a signal that Russia "will finally start fulfilling the (ceasefire) agreement" but cautioned that the withdrawal was only "the beginning of a long road."
Perevi, a mainly ethnic Georgian village of about 1,100 people on the western border of South Ossetia, had been under Russian control since a five-day war in August .
Georgia had accused Russia of violating the European Union-brokered ceasefire agreement by refusing to withdraw from Perevi.
The European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia welcomed the move and said it followed EU efforts to push for the withdrawal.
"We very much welcome this move. The Russian forces in South Ossetia have for a long time refused to dismantle this checkpoint.... But the insistence of the EU presidency and of the EUMM on the ground has borne fruit," the head of the 225-member monitoring mission, Hansjorg Haber, said in a statement.
Georgia has also called for Russia to withdraw from the Akhalgori district in South Ossetia and the Kodori Gorge in […] Abkhazia. Both areas were under Tbilisi's control before the war.
Georgian lawmaker Shota Malashkhia called for Russia to follow-up the move in Perevi by withdrawing from the other disputed areas.
"It is time for them to leave not only Perevi but also Akhalgori and Upper Abkhazia," he said in remarks shown on Rustavi-2 television, using the Georgian name for the Kodori Gorge.
"The Russian president has taken on the obligation to do this but has not met it," he said.
Russian forces had begun to withdraw from Perevi last month [November 2008] but were replaced by South Ossetian militia, raising fears of a confrontation in the village and prompting hundreds to flee their homes.
Russian troops later resumed control of the area. Utiashvili said there were no signs of South Ossetian forces moving into Perevi on Friday [12 December 2008].
Tensions remain high around South Ossetia, with frequent reports of shootings and explosions.
Monitors from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) were fired on by unidentified gunmen near the region on Wednesday [10 December 2008] but no one was injured.
Russian forces moved into Georgia on August 8  to repel a Georgian military attempt to retake South Ossetia, which had received extensive backing from Moscow since breaking away from Tbilisi's control in the early 1990s.
Under the ceasefire, Russian forces later withdrew to within South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Moscow recognised as independent states.