Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Saturday, 13 September 2008 17:15 UK

Russians pull out of Georgia port


Russian troops beginning the withdrawal from Poti

Russian troops have withdrawn from the Georgian port of Poti on the country's Black Sea coast.

Trucks and armoured vehicles had left the town and other bases in western Georgia and were seen heading towards the separatist territory of Abkhazia.

Russia has agreed to an EU-backed truce requiring it to withdraw troops from bases inside the undisputed territory of Georgia.

The bases were set up after a five-day war with Georgia in August.

Russian troops are expected to remain in the disputed territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Separately on Saturday, Georgian officials said a policeman had been shot dead near the border with Abkhazia.

Moscow says it has established formal diplomatic ties with the administrations in the two regions, following its "irrevocable" decision to recognise them as independent last month.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this week that Moscow needed to maintain a presence in the regions to ensure security.

Dispute with EU

Early on Saturday, Russian troops stationed at two bases in Poti were seen packing their belongings into vehicles that then set off along the road towards Abkhazia.

Georgian interior ministry official Shota Utiashvili said Russia had "withdrawn completely from Poti", the Associated Press news agency reports.

Russia to close checkpoints between Poti and Senaki within a week
Some 200 EU monitors in South Ossetia by 1 October
Russian forces to withdraw from undisputed land within 10 days of monitors deploying
International talks on the conflict to be held in Geneva on 15 October

Much of the Georgian port's naval infrastructure had been destroyed by the Russian military during the fighting.

The Russians were required to withdraw from Poti and from the nearby town of Senaki by Monday, under the terms of a ceasefire deal brokered earlier this week by the EU.

The deal also requires the Russians to complete a full withdrawal from all bases on Georgian territory - except for South Ossetia and Abkhazia - following the planned deployment of EU monitors to the area by 1 October.

Moscow later clashed with the EU over the terms of the deal, saying it had not given EU monitors the right to enter Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The two regions have had de facto independence since a civil war in the early 1990s, and Moscow has strongly backed their breakaway governments.

Fighting between Russia and Georgia began on 7 August after the Georgian military tried to retake the breakaway region of South Ossetia by force.

Russian forces launched a counter-attack and the conflict ended with the ejection of Georgian troops from both South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Hundreds of people were killed in the fighting and some 200,000 were displaced - most of them Georgians.

Russian forces also set up several bases on Georgian territory outside the separatist regions, in so-called "buffer zones" - a move criticised by Georgia and the EU as a violation of an earlier ceasefire deal.

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