MOSCOW (AP) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday signed the plan for a cease-fire in Georgia that his Georgian counterpart reluctantly agreed to a day earlier, setting the stage for a Russian troop withdrawal after more than a week of warfare.
The Russian leader signed the order in the resort city of Sochi, where the president has a summer residence, Medvedev spokesman Alexei Pavlov said, without providing further details.
The cease-fire plan calls for Russian forces to withdraw to the positions they held before the fighting broke out in Georgia’s Russian-backed separatist province of South Ossetia. That appears to mean that hundreds of Russian soldiers who had been in South Ossetia previously as peacekeepers will be allowed to return.
The plan also grants Russian forces limited rights to patrol Georgia proper, apparently with the aim of discouraging the Georgian military or partisans from establishing forward positions near South Ossetia.
Less clear so far is whether Georgia would be able to return its soldiers to the areas in South Ossetia where its peacekeepers had been stationed. But any attempt by Georgia to do that would run into towering opposition.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili signed the deal Friday in Tbilisi after lengthy talks with Washington’s top diplomat, Condoleezza Rice.
The deputy chief of the Russian military’s general staff, Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, said Saturday that “the head of our state has made it clear that the Georgian side, appearing in the future as peacekeepers, is now, after what has happened, unacceptable to South Ossetia.”
Russian troops had been seen digging foxholes and tank emplacements along a key Georgian road earlier Saturday. It was not immediately clear if any troops had begun pulling back after Medvedev signed the cease-fire.