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US Says Russia Violating Cease-Fire in Georgia

The United States is accusing Russia of trying to find excuses to keep thousands of troops in Georgia in violation of a cease-fire Moscow signed last month with the former Soviet republic. VOA Correspondent Meredith Buel reports from Washington.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, using unusually blunt language, says it is past time for Russia to withdraw most of its soldiers from Georgia's separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"These guys are trying to, at every turn, trying to wiggle out of a commitment they made and that their president put his name to," he said. "We have seen it since August and it continues. They need to get out of Georgia and they need to stop finding excuses to do that."

Russian military forces continue to occupy Georgian territory weeks after last month's five-day war, despite a French-mediated cease-fire.

Since then Russia has recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, despite international condemnation.

McCormack says the United States is concerned about Russia's decision to keep thousands of soldiers in both breakaway regions.

"I would note one quite concerning remark that has been attributed to the Russian government and to various officials, whether it was President [Dmitri] Medvedev or Foreign Minister [Sergey] Lavrov saying that they were going to keep 3,800 Russian troops, both in South Ossetia and Abkhazia - that of course would be a violation of the cease-fire that they signed in August," he said.

McCormack says Russia and the country's troops need to abide by their international commitments.

Georgia's August offensive to regain control of South Ossetia from Moscow-backed separatists prompted a massive retaliatory thrust by Russia into Georgian territory.

Russia argues it repelled Georgian troops to protect thousands of people who were granted Russian citizenship following the collapse of the Soviet Union.