(by Damien McElroy, Telegraph.co.uk) – Russia says it has begun withdrawing troops from Georgia but warned that any future operations against its citizens there will be met with a “crushing response.”
In accordance with a French-brokered peace plan forces have begun to return to their bases, Col-General Anatoly Nogovitsyn of the General Staff said.
However, Russian president Dimitry Medvedev warned that any new aggression against Russian citizens would be met with a “crushing response.”
“If anyone thinks that they can kill our citizens and escape unpunished, we will never allow this. If anyone tries this again, we will come out with a crushing response,” Mr Medvedev told World War Two veterans in the Russian city of Kursk.
“We have all the necessary resources, political, economic and military. If anyone had any illusions about this, they have to abandon them,” Mr Medvedev said.
The Georgian government had earlier denied that the terms of the ceasefire were being honoured.
A Russian checkpoint was maintained outside the town of Gori, 35 miles from the capital, Tbilisi. There was also a Russian presence at Igoeti, a town that Russian armour pushed through late last week. Officials also claimed that Russian forces were pushing deeper into Georgian territory from the central city of Khashuri.
The first independent monitors to enter South Ossetia have dismissed Russian claims that hundreds were killed by the Georgian army in its offensive in South Ossetia. That claim has been an important pretext for Russia’s aggressive deployment around the enclave.
“Our estimate does not confirm the official figure. We believe we are talking about dozens rather than thousands,” said Anna Neistat, a researcher for Human Rights Watch. “We have a rough estimate based on hospital figures and eyewitness testimony in the worst affected areas. We keep hearing official statements of several thousands dead and this is not serious and is irresponsible. It does not help to bring clarity to what happened there and bring justice to the victims.”
Russia said 1,600 were killed in South Ossetia after a Georgian attempt on August 7 to seize control of the province, which broke away from Tbilisi in the early 1990s.
Exports of oil from Azerbaijan were suspended yesterday after the Russian military blew up a key railway bridge used for transships of 70,000 barrels a day. The stoppage further limits BP’s options in taking oil from the Caspian after a fire damaged its Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) link to Turkey and a pipeline to Supsa in Georgia was shut due to security concerns. “Rail exports have stopped from Azerbaijan to Georgia,” BP spokesman Robert Wine said. “There’s been some damage along the line in Georgia.”
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said on Sunday that Russia’s reputation was now “in tatters” as she prepared to return to Europe for another round of emergency talks with Nato allies. Meanwhile Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, previously sceptical over Georgia’s potential membership of Nato, said Tblisi would join the alliance.
Miss Rice said she would travel to Poland to sign the agreement to install US interceptor missiles on Polish territory. She said: “I’m going to Poland to sign a missile defense agreement in the next couple of days, after the NATO meeting,” Relations between Russia and Poland reached a new low after Moscow voiced fury at Warsaw’s sudden announcement Thursday that it had reached a deal on the long-touted missile shield with the US.
The timing of the announcement infuriated Russia which said the weapons were clearly pointed at Moscow and warned they made Poland a legitimate military target.
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1. a) Who is the president of Russia?
b) What warning did the Russian president give to Georgia?
2. What did the Russian government accuse the Georgian government of doing in South Ossetia?
3. a) What conclusion did independent monitors make about Russia’s claim?
b) What is significant about this conclusion?
5. a) Name the president and capital of Georgia.
b) How will the Russian-Georgian conflict affect Georgia’s attempt to join NATO?
6. Challenge question: Read the commentary by Melik Kaylan posted at the Wall Street Journal here. Do you agree with Kaylan’s assertion that “If we don’t draw the line here, it doesn’t get easier down the road with any other border or country. We would be risking the future of Afghanistan, and the stability of Iraq, on the good will of Moscow and the mullahs in Tehran. This is how the game of grand strategy is played, whether we like it or not.” Explain your answer.
For background information on Georgia, go to the CIA World FactBook.
For a map of Georgia, go to WorldAtlas.com and click on “Georgia.”
Read a commentary on the Russian-Georgian conflict at the Wall Street Journal here.
Read a previous Telegraph article on the Russian-Georgian conflict click here.
Watch a Telegraph news clip from Georgia here.