Russia will pull out its forces from the areas adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia by midnight on October 8, Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, said.
He told journalist on a sideline of an international conference in Evian, France: “I want to inform you that today, before the midnight, the Russian peacekeeping contingent will eave the security zone at South Ossetia and Abkhazia.”
Meanwhile, Russian military commander on the ground in South Ossetia, Marat Kulakhmetov, told journalists in presence of EU monitors that the process of withdrawal and removing of six checkpoints in the so called buffer zone would be carried out “in a daylight, transparently.”
The same process of withdrawal and removing checkpoints was observed on the Georgian side of the Abkhaz administrative border.
Head of EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), Hansjoerg Haber, was visiting EUMM field office in Zugdidi, a town at the Abkhaz administrative border.
He told The Associated Press that EU monitors “always proceeded from the assumption that the process would be completed by Friday, and this is confirmation of that assumption.”
Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration, said on October 8, that although the Russian forces were pulling back from the areas adjacent to the breakaway regions, there was no sign of Russian withdrawal from Akhalgori.
“Moreover, they [the Russian troops] are further digging in there, which means that they have no intention to leave the area,” Iakobashvili told journalist.
Although Akhalgori has administratively been part of former Autonomous District of South Ossetia, the town and its surrounding villages have never been under the South Ossetian secessionist authorities’ control. The South Ossetian militia, backed by the Russian forces, moved in Akhalgori after the August war.
Russia has undertaken commitment to withdraw its troops to the lines held before the outbreak of the war under the EU-brokered August 12 ceasefire accord. That means that the Russian forces should withdraw from Akhalgori, as well as from some villages around Tskhinvali, which were controlled by Tbilisi before the war. Russia, however, said the reality had changed since August 12, as Russia recognized the breakaway region’s independence after that.
Georgian officials say that the withdrawal of the Russian troops from the so called buffer zones was the first stage and the next step should be EU monitors’ access inside South Ossetia and Abkhazia – something which is opposed by Moscow.
Meanwhile, the Georgian police force is moving in the areas, which are being left by the Russian troops. The policemen are accompanied by the Interior Ministry’s special purpose units, Vano Merabishvili, the Georgian interior minister, told journalist on October 8.
He also said that internally displaced persons will also be able to return in the areas as the Georgian police force would be responsible for the security there.