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Russia Against Army Pullout From South Ossetia
16.02.2006 20:55

Russia is against the pullout of its peacekeeping troops from South Ossetia, something Georgia insists on. Its parliament gave a negative estimate of the role of the Russian troops in this embattled Caucasian zone and even classified Russia's actions as occupation.
      South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s and declared independence. Georgia tried to take it back, a move sparking a bloodshed between the two republics until an agreement on the deployment of Georgian, Ossetian and Russian peacekeepers was reached. Until recently, the destiny of the republic was locked in a stalemate.
      But as Mikhail Saakashvili took the helm of power in Georgia, he launched a wide campaign to smear Russian authorities and win back the republic.
      Today, Russia held talks with its Georgian partners. The Foreign Ministry says it is satisfied with the results of the talks. North Ossetia, Meanwhile, many Russian officials and politicians comment on the issue.
      "I do remember that period in South Ossetias history. I lived through it myself. The Russian soldiers actually prevented a war, sometimes at the expense of their own lives. We lost some troops down there. And if we withdraw our peacekeepers, we would face the same situation that we managed to avert in 1992, namely a civil war," said Yury Baluyevsky, head of the Russian general staff.
      Tensions escalated after several provocations which as Russia claims were set up by Georgia. South Ossetia is generally considered a dispute zone between Russian and Georgia, as well as Abkhazia.
      Georgians now want Russian troops to leave to make room for international forces. One of the excuses is that Georgia is on its way to joining NATO.
      Status: Region within Georgia
      Population: Approximately 70,000
      Capital: Tskhinvali
      Major languages: Ossetian, Georgian, Russian
      Major religion: Christianity
      Currency: Russian rouble, Georgian lari


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