No sign of Russian armor leaving Georgia

A037864910.jpgVERKHNY ZARAMAG, Russia (Reuters) – No Russian tanks or armored personnel carriers left Georgia through the only military crossing point back into Russia overnight, a Reuters reporter at the border said on Tuesday morning.

Russia said on Monday that it had begun a gradual withdrawal of a large force from Georgia but Tbilisi questioned this, saying it had seen no sign of a pullout.

The reporter, stationed at the Roki Tunnel border crossing, said he saw only trucks loaded with construction materials and a number of ambulances driving along a winding mountainous road into Georgia overnight.

“I did not see a single item of military hardware passing through the border from Georgia into Russia,” said the reporter.

A second Reuters correspondent who traveled along the main road from the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali towards the Roki Tunnel on Monday evening also said he had not seen any Russian armor or troops moving back towards Russia.

Under a peace deal reached after 10 days of hostilities, Russia and Georgia agreed to pull their forces back to positions held before this month’s outbreak of violence over Georgia’s separatist region of South Ossetia.

The road from Tskhinvali to the Roki Tunnel and then on to the southern Russian garrison town of Vladikavkaz is the route used by Moscow to bring in its huge military force when it pushed into Georgia. It is the only land route connecting Russia and the pro-Moscow rebel province of South Ossetia.

The West has urged Russia to withdraw its soldiers from Georgia immediately. Foreign ministers from NATO members were due to meet in Brussels to discuss the crisis later on Tuesday.

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