Declaring Russia’s main war goals accomplished, President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday ordered a halt to military operations in the five-day war to block Georgian attempts to retake the separatist statelet of South Ossetia.
“I have reached a decision to halt the operation to force the Georgian authorities to peace,” Medvedev said in a statement.
“The aggressor has been punished and has incurred very significant losses. Its armed forces are disorganised,” he added.
Close US ally Georgia entered conflict with Russia last week after launching an offensive to retake the pro-Russian region of South Ossetia, which broke away from Georgian rule in 1992. Moscow responded with a huge counter-offensive.
Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze told Reuters he wanted to see more evidence of a Russian ceasefire and would remain “prepared for everything” until Moscow signed a formal peace deal.
The news broke just before French President Nicolas Sarkozy saw Medvedev at the Kremlin to discuss an international plan to halt the war, which has rattled world oil markets and unnerved the West.
Medvedev set two conditions for a full settlement of the conflict: Georgian troops had to return to their initial positions and be partly demilitarised, and a binding agreement had to be signed on the non-use of force.
It was not immediately clear whether Georgia would agree to these conditions.
Georgia’s Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili said: “The Russians have halted their advance. There is no movement of Russian forces, but they are staying at their occupied positions.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov earlier said Moscow could not agree to a peace plan which included Georgians in a future peacekeeping force because they had attacked Russian colleagues during Tbilisi’s push to recapture South Ossetia last week.
In Georgia, a series of explosions in the town of Gori on Tuesday killed at least five civilians. Broadcaster RTL later said a Dutch cameraman was among the dead and a correspondent wounded.
Putting further pressure on Saakashvili, separatists in the Black Sea region of Abkhazia, west of the main war theatre, launched a push early on Tuesday to drive Georgian forces out of the Kodori Gorge — the only area of that province under Georgian control.
“The operation to liberate Kodori Gorge has started,” Abkhazia’s self-styled foreign minister Sergei Shamba said. “Our troops are making advances. We are hoping for success.”