a Russian vehicle in the Georgian village of Kvemo-Achebeti Russia’s retreat from Georgia is yet to happen despite mixed reports from Moscow that it is already underway and that peacekeeping forces are “ensuring safety” in the region.

Georgia says Russia has failed to honour its ceasefire agreement to withdraw from Georgian territory as soon as possible.

The conflict began 10 days ago when Georgian forces tried to recapture South Ossetia, which broke free from Tbilisi in a war during the 1990s. Russia launched an overwhelming counterattack to support the separatists.

The Russian attack – its biggest military deployment outside its borders since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union – included air strikes on economic targets deep inside Georgia, forcing the Georgian army into retreat.

A French-mediated ceasefire accord urged a speedy Russian withdrawal but Russian forces are obviously determined to withdraw on their own terms.

Overnight, ABC reporter Matt Brown was witness to the tense stand-off which is continuing in the town of Gori.

Russian troops still control the entrances to Gori and the centre of town.

They are still stationed at the Georgian military base they over-ran last week and they still control the main road between Gori and the capital Tblisi.

There are reports that Russia wants to cripple Georgia’s armed forces and destroy ammunition dumps and other military hardware.

Around five hours after the withdrawal was supposed to begin yesterday, a column of Russian armoured fighting vehicles drove east of Gori, smashed through a Georgian police checkpoint and headed for high ground above the road to the capital.

Georgian officials say Russia’s actions amount to a violation of last week’s peace accord.

But Russian military spokesman Lieutenant-General Nikolay Uvarov says the troops will pull back to South Ossetia after ensuring the areas they are occupying are secure.

“Unfortunately there are still some commando teams from Georgia that are walking around,” he said.

“Last day, there were several small skirmishes. Our troops were fired upon.

“It depends on looters, and so on, so it depends on the situation. But it will take days, certainly not weeks.”

Crushing response

Meanwhile, as his troops are meant to be pulling out of Georgian territory, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has used a visit near the conflict zone to continue the war of words.

While in Vladikavkaz in southern Russia to award medals to some of those involved in the conflict in south Ossetia, Mr Medvedev has been full of praise for his soldiers and condemnation for Georgia.

Mr Medvedev said his country would do its best to ensure that Georgia’s crime of killing of Russian soldiers and peacekeepers did not go unpunished.

Earlier in the day while meeting World War II veterans in the city of Kursk, Mr Medvedev warned that if anyone tried something similar again, Russia would respond with mighty force.

He says no one should doubt the resolve of the Russian Government.

“If anyone thinks that they can kill our citizens, our soldiers and officers who are peacekeepers and escape unpunished, we will never allow this,” he said.

“If anyone tries this again, we will come out with a crushing response.”

Source : abc.net.au