Photo: AP
Georgian leader says Russian tanks advancing
Photo: AP
Rice calls for immediate Russian withdrawal
Photo: Reuters

Saakashvili: Russian tanks advance on Georgian towns

Despite Moscow's reassurances that it would honor truce, Georgian leader says Russia extending its 'occupation'; earlier, US Secretary of State Rice says Russian attack on Georgia will have 'profound implications'

Is Russia committed to ceasefire? Russian tanks have moved on two more towns in central Georgia, widening their "occupation," Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said on Friday.


"We now have an increasing area of Russian occupation of our territory," Saakashvili told reporters hours after signing a ceasefire agreement brought by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


Saakashvili said the tanks had moved to the towns of Khashari and Borjomi southwest of breakaway South Ossetia, where Russian troops and artillery massed over the past week during fighting with Georgian forces.


Saakashvili's claim could not be independently verified and Russian Presidency and Defense Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment.


However, Nicolas Sarkozy's office said earlier that Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev told the French president Moscow would sign the ceasefire deal he brokered and pull back its troops.


Rice: This is no longer 1968

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Friday demanded Russia withdraw all of its troops from Georgia.


"Our most urgent task today is the immediate and orderly withdrawal of Russian armed forces and the return of those forces to Russia," Rice told reporters after talks with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.


"The Russian attack on Georgia had profound implications and will have profound implications for its relations with its neighbors and the world," she said.


"Russian forces need to leave Georgia at once," Rice said. "This is no longer 1968."


Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili, who appeared at the news conference with Rice, said he had signed a cease-fire agreement. However, he said "this is not a done deal. We need to do our utmost to deter such behavior in the future."


'We will not cast them aside'

Western leaders engaged in intense diplomacy Friday to persuade Russia to pull troops out of Georgia, but regional tensions soared after a top Russian general warned that Poland could face attack over its missile defense deal with the United States.


Meanwhile, in his strongest declaration of support for Georgia, President Bush declared that America would stand by the Georgian people and that the staunch American ally's territorial integrity must be respected after last week's eruption of violence.


"We will not cast them aside," he said in Washington. But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at virtually the same time, said the separatist Georgian regions at the center of the conflict appear destined for independence.


 Also Friday, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said the number of people who have been displaced by the fighting in Georgia has risen above 118,000. Some 73,000 of those are Georgians who have remained in the country, said UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond.


Reuters and AP contributed to the report


פרסום ראשון: 08.15.08, 19:30
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