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Monday, Dec 16, 2019

Rice to visit Georgia, Russians not moving out

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is en route to Tbilisi, as Russia's military continues to occupy two Georgian provinces despite a ceasefire agreement obliging them to leave.

world Updated: Aug 15, 2008 14:09 IST

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was en route to Tbilisi on Friday, as Russia's military continued to occupy two Georgian provinces despite a ceasefire agreement obliging them to leave.

Rice was set to meet with members of the Georgian leadership to discuss the implementation of a ceasefire plan for the region, and humanitarian aid to Georgia being delivered by the US Air Force and Navy.

US President George W Bush's decision to send Georgia support aboard US military aircraft and warships has turned the Ossetia conflict into an clear face-off between the Kremlin and Washington, despite claims by both sides they only want peace in the region.

Rice, due in Tbilisi after Thursday's consultations in Paris, warned Moscow that further violations of the ceasefire accord would lead to Russia's deeper isolation.

Commanders of Russia's 58th Army Friday morning still were delaying a planned evacuation of Gori, claiming the Georgian military was unprepared to guarantee security in the region.

Looting and attacks in Gori by Ossetian militia, in part in retaliation for damage inflicted by the Georgian army on the Ossetian city Tskhinvali, was a substantial threat to civil order despite Russian military efforts to repress it, said Viacheslav Borisov, 58th Army commander, in a Thursday interview.

Russian marine infantry forces were also occupying the Georgian port city Poti Friday, more than three days after the end of active hostilities in the six-day Ossetia war, eyewitnesses said.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili continued a media offensive Thursday evening, accusing Russia of occupying one-third of Georgia, intending to annex Georgian territory, and of allowing atrocities to take place in Georgian provinces under Russian army control.

Russian forces also were continuing to destroy Georgia's military infrastructure, Saakashvili claimed.

Russian troops appeared to be focusing on demolishing an infantry brigade home base near Gori, and naval and military communications facilities in Poti, according to Georgia media reports.

Georgian radio reported that in the city of Senaki, near the Abkhazia border, Russian troops had emptied Georgian munitions depots, with loud explosions being heard.

In Warsaw, Poland agreed on Thursday to host part of a US anti-missile shield, capping more than a year of tough bargaining over a project that had infuriated Russia, despite assurances from Washington that the system is meant to counter missile threats from Iran, and is too small to undermine Russia's nuclear deterrent.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski called the Russian move into Georgia a "very strong argument" for wrapping up the missile defence talks.