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Controversial reports about Russian withdrawal

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, October 19
Following the statement of the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin about Moscow’s intention to withdraw its troops from the village of Perevi, Sachkhere region, the Georgian media has been disseminating conflicting reports about the situation in the village on Monday. According to reports the local population in Perevi, some Russian border police officers left the village early on October 18.

However the Ministry of Internal Affairs has not confirmed these reports. Speaking to The Messenger, head of the analytical department at MIA, Shota Utiashvili said the Russian troops remain in Perevi. “We do not want to comment on gossip. So far they [Russian troops] are still there and have not gone anywhere,” Utiashvili said. Sachkhere region governor, Zurab Tsertsvadze refused to comment on the supposed withdrawal of some of the Russian troops, explaining he is not authorised to do so.

Talking about the situation in the village of Perevi on Monday, Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, Nino Kalandadze stated, “There is some movement [of troops] in the village; however it is hard to predict what is going to happen. If the occupiers actually leave Perevi, we will welcome this fact, firstly because it is in our citizens’ interest and secondly because it will be an indication of the kind of effective results international pressure can cause.” She stressed however that Georgia will only talk of success when there is a full implementation of the August 12, 2008 ceasefire document.

Meanwhile Georgian politicians have reiterated their skepticism towards the Kremlin’s decision to withdraw from Perevi, saying it is just a tiny part of Russia’s obligations under the Medvedev-Sarkozy ceasefire agreement. The aim of the Georgian government is the complete de-occupation of Georgia’s territories and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Perevi village does not change the situation, MP from the ruling National Movement Party, Pavle Kublashvili said. “It is very good that the process has started, however it is not enough. Each of the occupied villages is important for us, so by withdrawing from Perevi, the situation does not change that much,” the MP stated.

Georgia’s former Ambassador to the UN, leader of opposition party Our Georgia–Free Democrats, Irakli Alasania suggested that the withdrawal of the Russian troops only from Perevi village will not ensure Georgia’s security. “It is very good that the Russian armed forces are leaving Georgia’s territory, however this particular step is not enough to ensure either the security of Georgia, or the fulfillment of the ceasefire agreement,” he told journalists on Monday. “That’s why we need to implement new, additional security mechanisms. They could be observation missions like EU or UN or any other kind pf security mechanism,” Alasania added.

The statement about Moscow’s plans to withdraw troops from the village of Perevi was made after the Geneva talks on October 14. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin said on that the troops will be withdrawn from Perevi as soon as possible and described the decision as Russia showing its goodwill. “However this move is also a test of Georgia’s restraint and sense,” said Karasin, adding, “This step is aimed towards normalising the situation and Tbilisi should think about what kind of policy it will pursue in the region.”

Russian troops have been deployed in the village of Perevi, located in Sachkhere region, since the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war.