Saturday, September 20, 2008

Putin: Russian pullout from South Ossetia and Abkhazia a "separate issue"

MOSCOW (AP) - Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has fresh words of defiance for the West today about the situation in the former Soviet republic of Georgia and its two breakway provinces.
Russian news agencies quote Putin as saying it will be up to what he refers to as the "countries" of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to determine how many troops Moscow can maintain on their territory. Putin stressed that Russia will adhere to its promise to pull back from the strips of land surrounding South Ossetia and Abkhazia once European Union monitors are deployed, acknowleging that those areas are Georgian territory.
But he calls a Russian pullout from South Ossetia and Abkhazia themselves a "separate issue." Putin made the comments after a meeting with the French prime minister.
The U.S. and European countries say Russia is violating its commitment to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions.


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