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Russian Forces Reportedly Withdrawing From Georgian Town

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2008 – Unofficial reports indicate that Russian troops began to withdraw from the Georgian town of Gori last evening, a senior Defense Department spokesman said here today.

“We’re going to have to see whether or not that is the beginning of a true withdrawal,” Bryan Whitman said, or “some sort of token effort.”

Meanwhile, deliveries of U.S. humanitarian supplies to Georgia continue, Whitman said. About 264 tons of supplies have been air-delivered to Georgia so far, he said.

Whitman also told reporters that Russian troops in Georgia took some U.S. military Humvee vehicles. He said he didn’t have a number of confiscated vehicles to provide to reporters, but he noted that they are U.S. government property.

The Humvee issue “is unresolved at this point,” Whitman said.

Russia escalated a simmering conflict with neighboring Georgia when it invaded the former Soviet republic, followed by bombing civilian infrastructure and wreaking “havoc and destruction” in Georgian villages, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at a news conference in conjunction with a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels, Belgium, earlier this week.

“The behavior of Russia in this most recent crisis is isolating Russia from the principles of cooperation among nations of the communities of states,” Rice said. “It is not an act of the United States or the European Union or anyone else to isolate Russia, it is what Russia is doing.”

In a strongly worded statement, NATO leaders today called for an immediate withdrawal of Russian forces to pre-conflict levels. This posture is in accordance with a peace agreement signed late last week by Russia’s President Dmitriy Medvedev and Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili.

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