Russian Army Leaves Georgian Buffer Zones

Troops will stay in breakaway regions; EU forces to remain
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 8, 2008 2:00 PM CDT
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, right, and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev seen at a conference in the French spa city of Evian, Wednesday, Oct. 8, 2008.   (AP Photo/RIA-Novosti, Mikhail Klimentyev, Presidential Press Service)
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(Newser) – Russian troops have withdrawn from the “buffer zones” that separate the secessionist republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from the rest of Georgia ahead of Friday's deadline, the BBC reports. Though Russia plans to keep 7,600 troops inside the breakaway republics themselves, the move "paves the way for the resumption of negotiations on an ambitious" EU-Russia partnership, said Nicolas Sarkozy.

Russia has asked that EU monitors deployed to the buffer zones remain as peacekeepers, but has barred them from entering Abkhazia and South Ossetia, so they won’t be able to monitor the Russian forces inside the regions. Speaking at a summit in France, Dmitry Medvedev praised the role of the EU’s role in "finding a peaceful option for overcoming the Caucasus crisis."