Russia due to start pullout of troops from Georgia
In response to strong pressure from various world leaders, President Dmitry Medvedev has vowed to pull Russian forces out of Georgia starting Monday, the AFP reports. The announcement contrasts sharply with an earlier report suggesting Russian forces were digging in Sunday for a long stay in Georgia.
The world awaited the promised start of a Russian pullout of combat troops from Georgia on Monday, as a plan to retain Russian "peacekeepers" in the embattled Caucasus republic sparked new tension.
Western allies of President Mikheil Saakashvili further upped the pressure on Moscow to quit Georgia as Russian troops dug in less than half an hour's drive from the capital Tbilisi.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel assured Saakashvili in Tbilisi that NATO remained ready to give membership to the ex-Soviet republic, as promised at a NATO summit in April, despite the conflict with Russia.
Separately, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on US television that Russia's reputation was in "tatters."
With a ceasefire holding, President Dmitry Medvedev assured his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy on Sunday that Russian regular forces "from tomorrow... will begin withdrawing," the Kremlin said.