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Russian FM: No Timetable for Pullout From Georgia

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Emma Stickgold

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov says Russian troops have no timetable for withdrawing from Georgia under a cease-fire agreement both sides have signed. Lavrov told reporters in Moscow today the pullout is contingent on the security situation in the region. Emma Stickgold has this report for VOA from Moscow.

President Dmitry Medvedev signed the six-point agreement in Sochi, the Black Sea resort town that is home to a presidential summer residence.

Under the terms of the agreement, both sides will pull back their armed forces to the positions held before the fighting broke out earlier this month, when Georgia launch a massive attack on the Russia-backed breakaway province South Ossetia.

A Ministry of Defense spokesman General Anatoly Nogovitsyn said the conditions for work to begin are now in place.

Nogovitsyn said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received the document with the peace agreement today and it has already been signed by Russia and Georgia without any changes made.

But, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told journalists Saturday that there was no set timetable for the withdrawal of Russian troops, saying it will take "as long as needed," depending, in part, on what he described as "additional security measures."

Earlier, Nogovitsyn said that Russian peacekeepers will never leave the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.  He denied Georgia's allegations that Russia bombed a key railway bridge west of the capital Tbilisi hours before Moscow signed the cease-fire agreement.

Television images showed a portion of the Kaspi region bridge destroyed.

Witnesses say Russian troops remain entrenched deep in Georgian territory, away from the Abkhazian and South Ossetian borders, and that they still surround the key city of Gori.

The United States demanded on Friday that Russia pull out of Georgia immediately, accusing Moscow of "bullying" its tiny southern neighbor by sending in troops and tanks.

On Saturday, U.S. President George Bush called Russia's response to Georgia's actions "completely unacceptable," in his weekly radio address. Mr. Bush said that the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia must remain part of Georgia. 

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