Around the disputed South Ossetia region, a “buffer zone” is being fortifyed by Russian troops (photo, fromaljazeera.net), with eight military posts and a ban on Georgian aircraft, said a senior Russian commander. A military presence will also be maintained around Abkhazia, another separatist region in the west of Georgia, said Anatoly Nogovitsyn, the deputy head of Russia’s general staff, in a televised news conference in Moscow on Wednesday.
“We are establishing two lines of posts for the peacekeeping contingent” in South Ossetia, he said.
“The buffer zone is stipulated by [previous] agreements, and Russian peacekeeping forces are allowed to move in it in the event a conflict breaks out”.
The buffer zone will be a no-fly zone for Georgian aviation, as only Russian planes will be allowed to fly over it, said Mr Nogovitsyn.
“Nobody else should fly there”, said the general.
He also indicated that Russian peacekeepers will stay on near Abkhazia, in an area that includes a major Georgian air base. “The Senaki air base is within the zone of the peacekeepers’ responsibility”, he said.
On Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council draft resolution has been rejected by Russia who said that the text that demanded full compliance with the Georgia ceasefire, did not fully reflect a peace plan agreed on Sunday.
Debated in New York, during an emergency council, the new French-proposed text demanded “full and immediate compliance with the ceasefire to which the parties have subscribed”.
“The immediate withdrawal of Russian forces to the lines held prior to the outbreak of hostilities [on August 7] and the return of Georgian forces to their usual bases” was also demanded in the text, which reaffirmed “the commitment of all member states to the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognised borders”.
But it has been made clear by Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s UN ambassador, that the text would not be accepted by his country, because it did not include all six points listed in the peace plan agreed to between Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.
According to the UN, the six-point EU-brokered ceasefire plan demands the renunciation of the use of force, immediate cessation of hostilities, free access to humanitarian aid, and withdrawal of forces to pre-conflict positions, while allowing Russian to implement unspecified “additional security measures”.
The text also calls for international discussions on the conflict between Georgia and the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The absence of a provision for additional Russian military measures is particularly objected by Mr Churkin, as well as the call for immediate withdrawal of Russian forces, which went beyond the ceasefire deal he said.
On Wednesday, describing the situation as “very unsatisfactory”, Thomas Steg, a German government spokesman said that there were no clear signs that Russia had started a withdrawal from Georgia.
“At the moment we have no tangible indication that the Russian troop withdrawal has really started. That is a very unsatisfactory situation”, said Mr Steg.