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Russia withdraws due to international pressure

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, October 20
Withdrawal of Russian troops from the village of Perevi in Sachkhere region is the result of pressure by the international community on Moscow and a “step in the right direction”, according to official statements made by the Georgian politicians on Tuesday following the pull-out of the Russian border police from the village late on Monday. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin voiced Moscow’s intention to withdraw from Perevi on October 14 after the 13th round of Geneva talks.

After 26 months of occupation the Georgian side now has complete control of the village, Georgian President’s press speaker, Manana Manjgaladze announced on October 19. “However Perevi is only a part of the occupied territories, 20 percent of Georgian territories still remain occupied and the main points of 2008 ceasefire agreement, including the point about de-occupation still remain unfulfilled,” she noted, adding that the withdrawal of Russian troops from the village has proved that pressure of the international community can bring positive results. “We hope that the diplomatic pressure will continue,” stated Manjgaladze.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry assessed the Russian troops’ withdrawal as a “step in the right direction,” however a “microscopic one” amongst the commitments set out in the August 12, 2008 document that Russia has yet to fulfill. “Georgia keeps calling on the Russian Federation to respect the rules and principles of international law, fully meet the demands of the ceasefire agreement and completely withdraw from Tskhinvali region, Georgia and Abkhazia, Georgia,” reads the statement of the Foreign Ministry released on October 18.

Russia is trying to appear “constructive” ahead of important summits where the Georgian issue will certainly be discussed, Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, Nino Kalandadze said. “Unfortunately, Russia’s actions give us grounds for skepticism,” she told journalists on Tuesday. “There is no indication in Russia’s actions that they are ready to really start the process of de-occupation. This gives us grounds to think that the pull-out from Perevi is only aimed at showing the international community that Moscow is taking constructive steps,” the Deputy Foreign Minister suggested.

EU officials welcomed the removal of the Russian Checkpoint in Perevi, describing it as a “positive development on the ground.” EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton said the EU looks forward to further progress towards the full implementation of the EU-brokered Six Point Agreement of August 12, 2008 and its implementing measures of September 8, 2008. “The EU remains fully committed to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. I call on all parties to make real efforts towards further normalisation on the ground and to continue engaging in dialogue as the only means to address the consequences of the conflict, including the humanitarian situation,” Ashton said.

Some Georgian analysts share the position of the officials that the withdrawal of Russian troops from Perevi is a result of the international community pressure on Moscow. “The Kremlin was forced to compromise as a result of this pressure,” analyst, Nika Chitadze told The Messenger. He suggested that one of the reasons for Russian troops’ pull-out from the village could be the fact that Perevi is located outside the administrative border of de facto South Ossetia. “The village was the subject for continued speculation and it was not so difficult for Russia to decide to withdraw,” Chitadze said, adding that anyway if it were not for the efforts of the international community, the Russian checkpoint might have had stayed in Perevi for a long time to come.