Forward Russian force falls back slightly in Georgia

Georgia Materials 16 August 2008 23:09 (UTC +04:00)

Russian tanks and personnel carriers on Saturday moved back a short distance from the Russian Army's most advanced positions in Georgia, dpa reported.

The group of five tanks and four armoured personnel carriers exited the central Georgian town of Igueti in the early afternoon.

The village had marked the closest point of Russia's offensive towards the Georgian capital Tbilisi.

The Russian armour/infantry force had arrived in the area on Friday evening, raising fears in the Georgian capital of an impending Russian assault.

Igueti residents said the Russian troops behaved properly and did not loot or otherwise make difficulties for villagers.

The Russian force retired approximately 5 kilometres, setting up a new road checkpoint just short of a bridge crossing the Lekhura river.

Observers from the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said the short distance of the Russian withdrawal was in part due to the Russians' excavating mines as they fell back, and in part because Moscow was unlikely to pull its troops fully out of Georgia before extracting further concessions from Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.