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Protesters Demand Russia's Withdrawal from Georgia's Black Sea Port

  • VOA News

Hundreds of protesters gathered Saturday outside Georgia's Black Sea port of Poti, demanding the withdrawal of Russian forces from the city.

They chanted "Russians Go Home" to protest checkpoints set up by Russian troops in armored personnel carriers. No direct confrontation was reported.

Moscow says it has fulfilled terms of a French-brokered peace deal with Tbilisi. But, in addition to Poti, Russian troops continue to patrol some key areas outside the so-called "security zones" where Russia claims it has the right to station troops in Georgia.

Those areas include the aviation base at Senaki and parts of a major highway connecting Tbilisi with the Black Sea coast.

White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Saturday Russia would violate the ceasefire agreement by setting up checkpoints or permanent facilities in Georgia. Johndroe said the U.S. is seeking clarification of Russia's activities in Georgia.

Russian General Anatoly Nogovitsyn said the continued presence of Russian troops deep in Georgian territory is not breaking the cease-fire that Moscow and Tbilisi signed earlier this month. He said Georgia's special services are preparing further military action in South Ossetia, and the Russian troops are in key positions to ensure peace.

Nogovitsyn also objected to an increased presence of NATO ships in the Black Sea. He said Russia could increase the size of its force in Georgia if the United States begins to help Georgia rebuild its military.

NATO on Friday said its Black Sea deployment was planned long before the outbreak of the Gergian conflict, and that the ships are there for routine exercises.

The U.S. military said the USS McFaul, which arrived in the Black Sea on Friday from Greece, is carrying humanitarian aid for Georgia. Another U.S. ship is to follow.

A Polish frigate also entered the Black Sea late Friday.

In Tbilisi Saturday, Georgian lawmakers voted unanimously to extend emergency wartime powers for President Mikheil Saakashvili for another 15 days.

The Georgian military move into South Ossetia earlier this month triggered a massive Russian response, with Moscow sending scores of tanks and thousands of troops into Georgia.

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