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Medvedev: Russia Will Crush Anyone Threatening its Citizens


Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has promised what he called a shattering blow to anyone threatening Russian citizens.

The president spoke Monday in Kursk, as a top Russian military spokesman, General Anatoly Nogovitsyn, said his country's troops had begun withdrawing from Georgia.

But foreign reporters and other witnesses in the Caucasus nation say Russian soldiers do not seem to be preparing to leave.

Russia sent in tanks and troops nearly two weeks ago, saying it must protect its citizens, after Georgia sent its forces into the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Russia has issued its passports to many residents of South Ossetia in the past decade.

After its initial attack, Russia pushed farther into Georgia, seizing several cities and the major Black Sea port of Poti. They also control the nation's major highways. An explosion Saturday destroyed a major east-west railway bridge, blocking all service.

In Georgia's South Ossetia province Monday, the leader of the breakaway region is reported to have fired his government and declared a state of emergency.

Russian news agencies say Eduard Kokoity criticized his Cabinet members for their response to the unrest in the region.

The New York Times
reports that Russia moved some missile launchers into South Ossetia on Friday.

Mr. Medvedev promised to withdraw troops during a telephone call Sunday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who drew up a cease-fire agreement signed last week by Russia and Georgia.

Mr. Sarkozy told France's Le Figaro newspaper that a Russian troop pullout from Georgia is not negotiable and must take place without delay.

The truce orders both sides to withdraw their forces to positions held before fighting broke out on August 7.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Sunday the Russians that stay behind can never be called "peacekeepers," and that Georgia will never surrender any territory.

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