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Russia, Georgia Exchange Prisoners of War


Russia and Georgia have begun exchanging prisoners of war taken during fighting in Georgia in the past two weeks.

Witnesses said officials from the two sides met Tuesday for the exchange in the village of Igoeti, 45 kilometers west of the Georgian capital Tbilisi. Ambulances were on the scene and at least two of the prisoners were on stretchers.

The head of Georgia's national security council confirmed the exchange to the Associated Press.

Monday, a senior Pentagon official who spoke on condition of anonymity said he had seen no significant Russian military pull out from Georgia, as required under a cease-fire.

Earlier Russian General Anatoly Nogovitsyn said his country's troops have begun withdrawing to Georgia's breakaway region South Ossetia.

But Georgian officials and reporters say they saw Russian tanks moving away from South Ossetia, deeper into Georgia in the direction of Tbilisi.

Russia sent in tanks and troops into Georgia earlier this month saying it had to protect Russian citizens after Georgia sent forces into South Ossetia - a breakaway Georgian region that favors Russia.

The Georgian operation was aimed at bringing the area back under Tbilisi's control.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev warned Georgian authorities Monday they face punishment for the incursion. Earlier, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili expressed readiness for talks with Russia once that country's troops leave Georgia.

During the fighting, Russia quickly moved beyond South Ossetia and now controls several Georgian cities and the major Black Sea port of Poti. Troops also control the nation's major highways. An explosion Saturday destroyed a major east-west railroad bridge, blocking all service.

President Saakashvili says Russians who stay behind can never be called "peacekeepers," and that Georgia will never surrender any territory.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.


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