Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered a halt to military operations in Georgia to "force Georgian authorities into peace," as he prepared to discuss an EU-backed peace plan with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered an end to the Russian military operation in Georgia on Tuesday, the Kremlin announced, as international pressure for a ceasefire stepped up.
"I have taken the decision to end the operation to force Georgian authorities into peace," Medvedev told defence officials.
Before meeting French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who is in Moscow to broker a ceasefire between warring Georgia and Russia, Medvedev added that a full settlement of the conflict with Georgia was subject to two conditions: a return of Georgian to pre-conflict positions, and a binding agreement by both sides not to use force.
Georgian authorities continue to report military operations on their territory. According to Georgia's National Security Council, Russia’s air force on Tuesday attacked a key oil pipeline running through Georgia - an accusation that has not yet been confirmed. Earlier Tuesday, Russian warplanes again bombed the town of Gori, killing at least five people, a Reuters correspondent reported.
And a spokesman for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said that three Georgian villages - Ruisi, Sakorsiko and Agara – were bombed after Medvedev’s announcement. There was no independent confirmation of the claim.
Georgia’s prime minister, Lado Gurgenidze, said more evidence of a Russian halt to military operations was needed, saying that until Russia signs a binding peace deal “we are mobilised, we are prepared for everything," before adding "I do appreciate it (Medvedev's gesture) but there has been more damage to infrastructure and civilian casualties today."
FRANCE 24’s Cyril Vanier at the Kremlin in Moscow, warned that the conflict in Caucasus may not be over yet. “We’ll have to see in the coming hours and days whether Medvedev’s assertion that the military operation is over is borne out by the facts on the ground.” Vanier said.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, has landed in Moscow for talks with Medvedev in a bid to secure a ceasefire between warring Georgia and Russian-backed rebels in two Georgian breakaway provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Sarkozy will then visit Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, for talks with the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili.
France on Monday proposed a three-point plan to the UN Security Council that calls for an immediate truce in the conflict. But Russia’s ambassador to the UN rejected the plan, saying it did not require Tbilisi to renounce the use of force against separatists.
The text calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities, full respect of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, and the withdrawal of forces from both sides to the position they occupied before Georgia sent forces into its breakaway South Ossetia enclave last week.
Early on Tuesday, the US president, George W. Bush, strongly condemned Russia’s “unacceptable” actions and urged Russia to accept the EU-backed peace draft. “Russia must accept this peace agreement as a first step towards resolving the conflict,” he said from the White House, adding that Russia’s latest moves raised “serious questions about its intentions in Georgia and the region.”
Meanwhile, leaders from Poland, Ukraine and the three Baltic countries are set to visit Tbilisi to support Saakashvili, according to the Lithuanian president’s office. On Saturday, the former communist Baltic states and Poland issued a joint statement which called on the European Union and NATO to oppose Russia's "imperialist" policy towards Georgia.
Fighting continues inside and outside separatist provinces
Fighting appeared to be continuing Tuesday morning in the two separatist provinces and there were reports of activity by Russian forces inside other parts of Georgia. In South Ossetia, Georgian forces continued to shell the separatist capital Tskhinvali overnight, though the shelling was lighter than in past nights, the Russian news agency Interfax reported.
In the Georgian city of Gori, just south of South Ossetia, Georgian troops and residents fled Monday when word came that Russian troops were advancing on the city. According to FRANCE 24 correspondents Tim Grucza and Nicolas Ransom, the troops retreated toward Tbilisi.
And in Abkhazia, a larger province than South Ossetia which broke away from Georgia during a 1992-93 war, Russian-backed separatists on Tuesday launched a fresh attack on a sliver of the region still held by Tbilisi, Interfax, the Russian press agency, reported. On Monday, Russian forces moved briefly into the western city of Senaki, destroying a military base, Russian and Georgian officials said.
Date created : 2008-08-12