Russia fails to withdraw from Georgia

The Washington Post reports:

Two days after signing a French-brokered ceasefire, Russian troops showed no immediate sign of vacating positions around the central Georgian city of Gori, where they arrived in force a day before. Wire services reported from the area that Georgian police had approached the city for what they expected to be the beginning of a handover, but left after what the Associated Press described as a “confrontation” at a Russian checkpoint.

The status of Russia’s presence in a second strategic town, the port city of Poti, was unclear. Georgian officials said that Russian troops remained in Poti, while a Russian military spokesman denied that was the case. . .

Russia on Tuesday agreed to stop offensive operations and pull its troops out of Georgian territory, but a day later took over the frontline city of Gori, seized munitions at Georgian military bases and set up positions along the country’s main east-west highway. Paramilitary fighters accompanying the troops looted homes and stole cars, witnesses said. . .

Russia denied many claims of violations of the cease-fire pledge. But Lavrov acknowledged the presence of Russian soldiers outside Gori and in the western city of Senaki, the site of another Georgian military base. “We have never concealed this,” he said. “They are there to neutralize a huge arsenal of arms and military hardware which they found there totally abandoned. It was necessary to neutralize them in order not to create a threat for civilians.” He promised that reports of looting would be investigated.

At least it appears that Russia has stopped its advance, but with Tbilisi cut off from the rest of Georgia, Russia doesn’t need to advance any further.

UPDATE: Defense Secretary Gates says Russia now appears to be beginning to withdraw.

ANOTHER UPDATE: On the other hand, Georgia claims that a column of 100 Russian tanks is moving further into Georgia.

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