Russia: Troop withdrawal in its 'final phase'

Russian troops are in the final phase of their withdrawal from Georgian territory, which should be completed by late Friday, a Russian military spokesman says.

Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn says Russian troops are in full compliance with the cease-fire agreement.

"Russian troops are in full compliance with international agreements," Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn told reporters at his daily briefing Friday.

He confirmed that Russia's military had suspended cooperation with NATO because of the rift over its actions in Georgia, reported CNN.

"Yes, we refrain from the exercises, but it is only a response," Nogovitsyn said. "It is not the Russian side that provoked it."

He also questioned why ships from NATO nations had sailed into the Black Sea in recent days. He said German and Spanish ships were now there.

Nogovitsyn accused the Georgian government of violating the cease-fire deal, including two special operations he said were conducted into the breakaway province of South Ossetia on Monday.

The agents from Georgia's interior ministry used physical force to question two Ossetians about Russian forces, he said. 

The general also displayed two Georgian flags captured by Russian troops, which he called trophies.

The commander of Russia's land forces, Gen. Vladimir Boldyrev, told Russia's Interfax news agency on Thursday that his troops would be back on Russian soil in 10 days. Boldyrev said that Russian peacekeeping troops would be stationed at posts troops had been constructing since the invasion, some of them inside Georgian territory. Russia argues that it is allowed to expand its security zone under a 1992 agreement.

Russia's incursion into the former Soviet republic followed the launch of a Georgian campaign against the Russian-backed separatist territory of South Ossetia on August 7. Russian tanks, troops and armored vehicles poured into South Ossetia and another breakaway Georgian territory, Abkhazia, the following day, advancing into Georgia across the administrative borders with those regions. 

It was confirmed Friday that the U.S. urged Georgia "not to do this" before it sent troops into its breakaway region of South Ossetia.

The U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Beyrle, told the Russian business daily Kommersant it had urged Georgia not to launch an attack and that Russia responded in a "legitimate" way, though he went on to say Russia went too far in its military incursion.

His comments represent a public acknowledgment from a senior U.S. official that Russia had some justification for its initial response to Georgia's attack on South Ossetia.

CNN confirmed the ambassador's response with the U.S. Embassy in Russia.

Russia and Georgia signed a French-brokered six-point cease-fire agreement last weekend that allows Russian forces to establish a buffer zone inside Georgia within a few kilometers of South Ossetia -- a pro-Moscow breakaway republic where Russian peacekeepers have been stationed for more than a decade under international agreements.

Washington has been pushing its allies to isolate Russia diplomatically over the incursion by suspending NATO-Russian contacts. In addition, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the world's leading industrial powers were not likely to meet with Russia as the Group of Eight in the near future.

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