Russia sets pullback to "buffer zone" by August 22

Other News Materials 21 August 2008 15:48 (UTC +04:00)

Russia's top army official said Thursday that Moscow would pull back its troops to a buffer zone along Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia by Friday, dpa reported.

"The withdrawal has started at a pace that will have all the Russian Federation's forces behind the line of our zone of responsibility by the end of August 22," Colonel General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian army general staff, told a briefing in Moscow.

Russia's 58th Army, now occupying two enclaves in Northern Georgia, said it had pulled back 58 units, and reporters near the South Ossetian border reported the first evidence of substantial troop withdrawals.

International criticism has mounted with each new day that Moscow delays pulling its troops out of Georgian territory in accordance with a ceasefire that ended the 10-day conflict.

On Wednesday, Nogovitsyn said the buffer zone would consists of a string of checkpoints along the South Ossetian border controlled by 272 Russian peacekeeping troops. He specified the buffer zone would not include the strategic city of Gori.