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Russia To Extend Troop Pullback From Georgia

Marat Kulakhmetov
JAVA, Georgia (Reuters) -- Russia will pull its troops back on October 8 from the southern edge of a buffer zone inside Georgia surrounding the territory of South Ossetia, a senior Russian military officer said.

Russia has until October 10 to withdraw all its troops from the "security zones" it has set up inside core Georgian territory -- adjacent to South Ossetia and a second breakaway region, Abkhazia -- under a cease-fire deal brokered by EU president France following the Russia-Georgia war in August.

"Tomorrow in the first half of the day the pullout will occur of all six Russian peacekeeping checkpoints from the south of the security zone," Marat Kulakhmetov, commander of Russian peacekeepers in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone, told journalists in the South Ossetian town of Java.

"The pullback will be completed in one day," Kulakhmetov said.

A second line of Russian troops is stationed further north, on the South Ossetian border.

Russia sent its forces into South Ossetia to repel an offensive by the Georgian government to retake the territory from pro-Moscow separatists who had controlled it for over a decade.

Russian troops then pushed further into Georgia, saying they were needed there to prevent more Georgian attacks.

The West has condemned Russia for a "disproportionate response" to Georgia's actions and has repeatedly demanded that Russia pull its troops out of Georgia's heartland.