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Medvedev: Russian troops will be out by midnight

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, October 9
All six checkpoints erected by Russian troops have been removed from Georgian territory. However the Russians are still in the Akhalgori region and the Kodori Gorge.

“I can confirm that almost all Russian troops have left the occupied territories,” said the official spokesperson of Georgian Interior Ministry Shota Utiashvili, talking to The Messenger on October 8, while confirming that they remain in the abovementioned areas. Head Russian peacekeeper Murat Kulakhmetov stated that the troops from the checkpoints have been transported to South Ossetia. “The personnel from five checkpoints is already is South Ossetia, and those from the sixth are on their way to Tskhinvali,” he told Russian media. He underlined that all Russian soldiers will leave Georgian territory by the end of October 8, to be replaced by 200 unarmed EU observers whose mission started on October 1, after the agreement signed between Russia and the EU.

Kulakhmetov’s statement was preceded by an interview given in France by Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev, in which he said, “I want to inform you that today [October 8], before midnight, the Russian peacekeeping contingent will leave the security zone around South Ossetia and Abkhazia.” After the Russian troops depart, Georgian police will take control of the previously occupied villages. “By evening all the villages on this territory will be controlled by Georgian police,” said Georgian Interior Minsiter Vano Merabishvili, talking to local journalists. “Half an hour after the Russian occupiers have left, internally displaced persons can return to their homes and the Georgian police will take full responsibility for ensuring their security.”

Talking at a press conference on October 8, Georgian State Minister for Reintegration Issues Temur Iakobashvili said that Russian troops “show no signs” of withdrawal from Akhalgori “Moreover, they [the Russian troops] are digging in further, which means that they have no intention of leaving the area,” he added. Akhalgori is located near the border of South Ossetia, and was part of the old South Ossetian Autonomous Republic in Soviet times, but has never been controlled by the separatist regime. It was occupied by South Ossetians, supported by Russian troops, during the recent conflict, but according to the Russia-EU agreement this territory must be returned to the control of the Georgian Government.

Russian troops entered Georgia after the August Georgian-Ossetian conflict. The Georgian Government has declared all places were Russian soldiers are stationed to be “occupied Georgian territories.”