Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

Russians dig in despite ceasefire deal

Russian forces built ramparts around tanks and posted sentries on a hill in

central Georgia, digging in despite Western pressure for Moscow to withdraw its

forces under a ceasefire deal signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

The United States and France said it appeared Russia was defying the truce

already.

Russian troops still controlled two Georgian cities and the key east-west

highway between them, cities well outside the breakaway provinces where earlier

fighting was focused.

``From my point of view - and I am in contact with the French - the Russians

are perhaps already not honoring their word,'' US Secretary of State Condoleezza

Rice said.

Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said Mr Medvedev had signed the

cease-fire deal and ordered its implementation, but would not withdraw troops

until Moscow is satisfied that security measures allowed under the agreement are

effective.

He said Russia would strengthen its peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia,

the separatist Georgian region at the center of more than a week of warfare that

sharply soured relations between Moscow and the West.

Asked how much time it would take, he responded: ``As much as is needed.''

President George Bush warned Russia that it cannot lay claim to the two

separatist regions in US-backed Georgia even though their sympathies lie with

Moscow.

``There is no room for debate on this matter,'' the president, with Ms Rice,

told reporters at his Texas ranch.

Georgia's Foreign Ministry accused Russian army units and separatist fighters

in one of the regions, Abkhazia, of taking over 13 villages and the Inguri

hydropower plant, shifting the border of the Black sea province toward the

Inguri River.

Abkhaz officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the late-night

claim, and there was no information on whether the seizure involved violence.

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