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Russia Defies Calls for Withdrawal; U.S. Continues Georgia Relief

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2008 – Russia continues to defy international calls for the country to pull its forces out of Georgia, and humanitarian operations continue, a Pentagon official said here today.

Russian troops continue to occupy the breakaway region of South Ossetia, and Russian troops continue to maintain troops in Gori, a Georgian city that is the gateway to South Ossetia, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

“It is fair to say they are still not living up to the terms of the cease-fire agreement,” Whitman said during a meeting with reporters. The terms of the cease-fire include monitoring by military officers under the auspices of the Organization of Security Cooperation in Europe.

The Russian Duma – equivalent to the U.S. House of Representatives -- has called on the government to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia.

Meanwhile, U.S. military personnel continue to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia. Whitman said about 100 U.S. military and DoD civilian personnel are in Georgia coordinating the aid.

The Navy’s USS McFaul docked in the Georgian port of Batumi over the weekend and began off-loading supplies as more humanitarian aid continued to arrive by airlift. “Over the weekend, we have 48 sorties that have flown in with 774 short tons of materials,” Whitman said.

The Coast Guard Cutter Dallas has passed through the Dardanelles and entered the Black Sea with more supplies. The USS Mount Whitney is loading humanitarian supplies at Gaeta, Italy.

The United States has provided $18.3 million in aid, with the Defense Department’s portion standing at $7.2 million so far for airlift and emergency supplies. DoD’s “spend rate” -- the continuing contribution – is about $1 million per day, Whitman said.

Cots, bedding, mattresses, sleeping bags, small tents, mobile kitchen units and medical supplies are “still in need and are priorities,” Whitman said.

A U.S. European Command assessment team remains in the country, working with Georgians and the U.S. Embassy in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

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