Russian President signs ceasefire pact

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The Independent Online

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev today signed a ceasefire agreement ending hostilities with Georgia over the breakaway region of South Ossetia, the Kremlin said.

"The president informed participants of the security council meeting that he had just now signed the six-point plan," said the Kremlin's chief spokeswoman, Natalia Timakova.

Medvedev signed the order in the resort city of Sochi, where he has a summer residence.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili signed the French-brokered deal on Friday in Tbilisi after lengthy talks with Washington's top diplomat, Condoleezza Rice.

The plan appears to leave some tense issues open to interpretation, including whether Georgia will be able to send troops back into parts of South Ossetia, the separatist republic where massive fighting erupted last week.

The move by Russia today sets the stage for a Russian troop withdrawal after more than a week of warfare.

The ceasefire plan calls for Russian forces to withdraw to the positions they held before the fighting broke out in 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.

The deputy chief of the Russian military's general staff, Gen Anatoly Nogovitsyn, said today 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."

Following Russia's commitment to the ceasefire, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that Russia will pull out troops from the conflict zone in Georgia once additional security arrangements are put in place,

The ceasefire agreement states that Moscow's troops will continue to implement additional security measures on a temporary basis pending the arrival of an international peacekeeping mechanism.

"The (Russian) president issued an order to the relevant authorities to start the adoption of extra security measures envisaged in the six-point plan," Lavrov told reporters.

"As these security measures are implemented, the withdrawal of forces sent to carry out this reinforcement operation will be carried out."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili have now both signed the French-brokered peace deal, but Lavrov said the document signed by the Georgian leader was missing a key introductory part.

"The document signed by the Georgian president differs from the one which was agreed," he said. "It totally omits the introductory part saying that these principles are supported by Russia and France and calling on all sides to sign them."

He said Russia was discussing the matter with Georgia and that it would be settled through diplomatic channels. Lavrov said Russia had started consultations at the United Nations on international efforts to end the conflict.

"Additional numbers of monitors should observe the security zone. We will carry out our obligations under the deal, depending on how other parties carry them out," he said.