Russia begins withdrawing troops to South Ossetia: Defence Minister

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Moscow, Aug 22 (UNI) Russian Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov confirmed that the presidential order to withdraw troops back to positions in South Ossetia will be carried out today.

''During the day (Friday), the pullout of all the units from the territory of Georgia will be completed,'' Itar-Tass news agency quoted Serdyukov as saying.

He specified that the units would begin an organised pullout at 0600 am (Moscow time) from Georgia's territory to South Ossetia.

''Only Russian peacekeeping units will remain at specially equipped security check-posts within the limits of security zones established in line with coordinated security principles, which Russia strictly abides by,'' Serdyukov said.

Russian Ground Forces Commander Gen Vladimir Boldyrev said yesterday the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia would be completed within the next 10 days.

''They will require around 10 days to move out of their current positions and the convoys will enter Russia through South Ossetia, according to schedule,'' RIA Novosti news agency quoted him as saying.

He had said 500 Russian peacekeepers would resume operations today.

Russia began pulling back troops from Georgia on Monday under a six-point plan drawn up by the Russian and French Presidents.

Moscow had criticised the Georgian troops for not following instructions to leave the South Ossetia conflict zone.

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