Russian troops withdraw from Georgian town

A Russian tank on the Gori-Tbilisi road. File photo Russia and Georgia fought a brief war over South Ossetia in August 2008

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Russian troops have withdrawn from a Georgian town which they had occupied since a brief war between the two countries in 2008.

Georgian officials said the Russians pulled out from Perevi, which is located just outside Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region.

Moscow and Tbilisi agreed after the war that their troops would move back to their pre-conflict positions.

Georgia had condemned Russia's military presence as a violation of the truce.

'Tiny step'
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On Monday, Shota Utiashvili, a spokesman for the Georgian interior ministry, said Russian troops had left Perevi and a Georgian army unit had moved into the town.

Mr Utiashvili said the Russians had moved across South Ossetia's de facto border.

"The Russians left. There's not a single Russian soldier in Perevi any more," the spokesman told Reuters.

The pullout was agreed at the latest round of internationally-mediated talks in Geneva.

After the war Russia eventually withdrew most of its personnel, tanks and armoured vehicles to South Ossetia.

But Moscow had kept a small number of its troops in Perevi, manning three checkpoints in the small town.

The Georgian government welcomed Russia's latest move, but said it was a tiny step, the BBC's Tom Esslemont in Tbilisi says.

The Georgians said for Russia to honour its side of the ceasefire it must remove its forces from South Ossetia altogether.

Russia has recognised South Ossetia - and a second breakaway Georgian region, Abkhazia - as independent states.

And Moscow shows no intention of pulling its forces out of those regions.

Diplomatic relations between the two former Georgia and Russia have not been restored since the war.

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