Russian ambassador leaves Georgia

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Moscow, Sep 30 (UNI) Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vyacheslav Kovalenko today left Tbilisi with 22 embassy officials, a month after the former Soviet Republic severed diplomatic ties with Moscow in the aftermath of the Russia-Georgia conflict and recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

''Several diplomats will stay here in Tbilisi. Maintenance staff will remain to take care of the embassy building, which is Russia's property,'' Mr Kovalenko told reporters before leaving.

A civil aviation source told RIA Novosti news agency that a plane had left here early today to collect the Russian diplomatic staff from Tbilisi.

Russia recognised Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states on August 26, two weeks after it had expelled Georgian troops from South Ossetia following Tbilisi's August 8 military offensive against the Republic.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement last Friday that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili failed to learn lessons from the conflict over South Ossetia and still posed a threat to the stability in the Caucasus.

The Ministry also called on the European Union, which has agreed to deploy military observers in Georgia, to ensure that Georgia does not launch further attacks.

''We hope that the European Union, which pledged to guarantee the non-use of force principle, will take into account Saakashvili's habit of breaking promises," the statement said.

Foreign Ministers of the 27 EU member states approved the deployment of at least 200 observers in Georgia's ''buffer zone'' near South Ossetia and Abkhazia on September 15.

The initial decision to deploy the mission, which is expected to be in place by October 1, was made during an emergency summit in Brussels in early September.

The mission will ensure that a peace plan signed by the French and Russian Presidents is complied with and assist in maintaining public order and ensuring the return of refugees.

UNI XC GT KN1829

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