Russia military forces ratcheted up the pressure on their Georgian army opponents with a dramatic failure of Georgian forces in the Ossetia war's north-western sector, dpa reported.
The sharpest combat on Tuesday was in the Kodori Gorge in Georgia's north-west, where Abkhazia infantry and armour attacked Georgian defences, according to a Georgian government report.
Abkhazian ground troops including special forces infantry, and supported by helicopter gunships, air strikes, and artillery, kicked off an assault on the remote mountain valley in the morning hours.
The attack had succeeded by midday when the Abkhazian flag was flying from a former Georgian police headquarters in the largest village in the valley, Adjara, said Anatoliy Zaitsev, an Abkhazian military spokesman.
The six-day-old Ossetia war has sparked fighting between Georgia on two main fronts, in Georgia's separatist province South Ossetia, and on the border between Georgia and its second separatist province Abkhazia.
The capture of the Kodori Gorge, taken away from Abkhazia via a lightning Georgian offensive in 2006, was the second important territorial defeat for Georgia in as many days.
Russian armoured columns in the central sector, moving south after having ejected Georgian forces from the Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, had according to eyewitnesses halted on Monday evening well north of the Georgian town Gori, but outside the original Ossetian conflict zone.
Georgian government officials Monday evening claimed Russian troops had entered Gori and were moving south, a move which would have directly threatened the Georgian capital, and widened the war even further.
The Russian air force according to Gori residents carried out some ten air strikes in the area beginning dawn on Monday, and focusing on an mostly abandoned tank base outside the town. Russian army leadership on Tuesday "in fact no air strikes have taken place in Gori."
A Deutsche Presse-Agentur reporter saw the remains of a Georgian armored personnel carrier on a highway outside Gori that had been destroyed by air-to-ground rockets. Eyewitnesses said a Russian aircraft had fired them shortly after dawn.
Russian general staff spokesmen and Gori residents alike contradicted Georgian reports that Russian troops had entered Gori. Jet aircraft were overhead, but during the midday hours on Tuesday a dpa reporter saw no Russian forces, or traces of them, in the town.
The last air bombings in Gori's vicinity were carried out approximately one hour before Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev announced the Kremlin had agreed to a ceasefire.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in a late Monday evening national television statement had warned of an impending Russian ground offensive, and Russia's intention to occupy all of Georgia.
Saakashvili's remarks and rumours spread about the capital by mobile phone sparked a run on Tbilisi grocery stores for food and bottle water, and emptied some city petrol stations of fuel. Waits of up to four hours to fill an auto's tank were reported.
But as Tuesday dawned the Georgian capital was quiet, having passed its first night in five days without a Russian airstrike in the vicinity. Traffic was moving normally, but banks across Georgia were closed.
Russia's 58th Army, a paratrooper-tank force that captured the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali after days of fierce fighting, said they had no intention of moving on Tbilisi, and added that once the situation was stable they intended to remove forces from the region, said Anatoly Nogovystyn, the army commander, according to an Interfax report.
Russian forces would however "continue to carry out reconnaissance," he added.
The Ossetia war's second front, in the west on the border between Georgia and its renegade province Abkhazia, was relatively calm on Tuesday Strong Russian armoured columns on the second western front held Georgia's Zugdidi district, adjacent to Abkhazia, and were clearing villages in the region against no resistance, Georgia's Rustaveli-2 television reported.
The powerful force of some 9,000 naval infantry and 350 tanks and armoured personnel carriers had by that time not come into contact with the region's reported defenders: a brigade of US-trained Georgian infantry with combat experience in Iraq, and flown aboard US Air Force cargo jets into Tbilisi on Monday.
Russian military casualties since Thursday's outbreak of fighting was 16 dead and some 100 wounded, a Russian 58th Army spokesman said.
Georgian military casualties as of Monday were some 90 dead and 500 wounded, according to the latest Georgian Army estimates. Russian army officials on Tuesday for the first time confirmed they had taken Georgian troops prisoner. No number was given.
Confirmed civilian dead are in excess of 200, and may exceed 2,000, according to unconfirmed reports.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Antonio Guterres, released 2 million dollars Monday to provide humanitarian support to people displaced by the fighting.
The UNHCR said the first flight carrying relief supplies was due to arrive Tuesday from Dubai with a second leaving Copenhagen on Wednesday. The two flights will carry enough relief supplies for at least 30,000 people reported to have fled South Ossetia.
The European Union also was moving to assist, authorizing 30 tons of medical supplies to be sent to Georgia via Armenia.
About 25,000 refugees from South Ossetia's population of 70,000 have fled north and are living in camps and hostels in Vladikavkaz. Russia has pledged a half-billion dollar effort to rebuild the region.
Some 2,000 people, among them foreigners, fled Georgia into Armenia.