Georgian minister: We won't cede to Russians
Reintegration Minister Yakobashvili says Georgian troops 'merely regrouping', not pulling out of South Ossetia. 'Russians didn't expect us to fight with such determination and force,' he adds
"We're changing strategies and tactics, but we will not give up," Georgian Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili told Ynet Sunday following reports that Russia expanded its bombing blitz against neighboring Georgia while Georgian troops pulled out of the capital of the contested province of South Ossetia under heavy Russian shelling.
Yakobashvili refuted the reports of a Georgian pullout, saying the troops were merely "regrouping" and "improving their positions".
"It must be understood that South Ossetia is an area that does not have clear boundaries and contains Georgian enclaves," he said, "as far as we're concerned, we haven't retreated but rather took up different positions."
The minister said the situation in the field in the past few hours has been relatively calm, with no reports of attacks on civilian population since the morning hours.
However, Yakobashvili said a new front has been launched in Georgia's separatist province of Abkhazia. "We expect a Russian assault in Abkhazia. So far there were a few bombings there and the mobilization of Russian forces," he said.
Earlier on Sunday Abkhazia's President Sergei Bagapsh issued a decree putting the region's troops on high alert and mobilizing some reservists.
Bagapsh said Abkhazian troops will move to drive Georgian troops out of the Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia. The northern part of the gorge is the only area of Abkhazia that has remained under Georgian government control.
Yakobashvili told Ynet that the Georgian government is awaiting the results of the ongoing diplomatic efforts exerted by the European Union and the United States, but hinted that Georgia does not plan on accepting Russia's demand for a withdrawal of Georgian troops from South Ossetia.
Asked by Ynet whether Georgia had anticipated Russia's harsh response, the minister said, "I think it was Russia that was surprised; they did not expect us to fight with such determination and force.
"The world now understands that this affair does not relate to Georgia alone – but to the entire world," he said. "This dispute is about NATO, Europe, control in eastern Europe and central Asia and control over the Caucasus region and the gas pipeline.
"There are a lot of things at stake here," Yakobashvili said.
News agencies contributed to the report