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Saakashvili: Russia Occupies One-Third of Georgia


Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili says a convoy of Russian tanks pushing deeper into Georgia towards the second largest city, Kutaisi, has stopped.

Mr. Saakashvili gave no details on the Russian tank movement. But he told CNN television Thursday that Russia currently occupies one-third of his country.

He said the presence of Russian irregulars, armed men who are not full-time soldiers, is extremely worrying. He accuses them of looting and killing in ethnic Georgian villages in South Ossetia.

Earlier, Russian tanks took up positions outside the strategic city of Gori after a stand-off with Georgian authorities who were trying to re-enter the abandoned town. The Georgians had refused to endorse a proposal for South Ossetian police to patrol Gori. It was not immediately clear if the stand-off has ended, but no shooting has been reported.

Elsewhere, witnesses say Russian troops entered the undefended Black Sea port of Poti and took computers and other equipment from port facilities. U.S. officials have accused Russia of disabling Georgian military installations.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said large parts of South Ossetia and the Gori region are inaccessible to humanitarian aid workers because of lawlessness. He said civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence in Georgia. He reminded both Russians and Georgians that international law obligates them to protect civilians. Mr. Ban said the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees plans to visit both Georgia and Moscow.

Georgian forces say they launched an offensive against separatists in South Ossetia last week after coming under Russian fire. Russia says it acted to protect its citizens in Ossetia. It sent in about 10,000 troops, and hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles into Georgian territory.

The breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s, but have failed to gain international recognition.

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