Russia confirms Georgian troops pull out of South Ossetia

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Moscow, Aug 10 (UNI) Russian Defence Ministry today confirmed Georgian troops pull out of South Ossestia, after failing to retake the breakaway republic through military force.

Russian peacekeeping soldiers are once again in control of most of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, Russian Defence Ministry's spokesman Anatoly Nogovitsyn told Russian Today TV channel.

Earlier, the western media reported quoting Georgia's Internal Affairs Ministry spokesman, Shota Utiashvili, as saying that Georgian troops had fully left South Ossetia.

However, the Secretary of Georgia's National Security Council, Aleksandr Lomaya, claimed Georgian troops had merely relocated to new positions within South Ossetia.

''Following the airstrikes, Tskhuinvali is virtually obliterated.

In these conditions our forces have relocated and assumed new positions,'' Lomaya said.

Nogovitsyn also dismissed Georgian reports that Russian warplanes attacked civilian targets, saying Russian warplanes did not bomb any such targets.

Georgian officials later accused Russia of escalating the conflict in Abkhazia, another breakaway region in the former Soviet republic.

Russian PM Vladimir Putin who directly flew from Beijing Olympics to Vladikavkaz, the capital of North Ossetia, near the borders of breakaway region yesterday, said it was unlikely that South Ossetia would reintegrate with the rest of Georgia.

''The country's territorial integrity had suffered a fatal blow,'' he said.

Meanwhile, media reports said Russian warships have been deployed near ports along the Georgian Black Sea coast, including Poti, where Georgian wheat and fuel shipments are being blocked.

Russia insists there are no plans to stop oil exports, but said it reserves the right to search any ships.

In response, Ukraine has threatened to block the return of Russian warships to their Black Sea base at Sevastopol, saying it does not want to be ''drawn into a military conflict''.

UNI XC CS KN2056

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