Putin defiant on troops

Only Russia and the “states” of South Ossetia and Abkhazia will decide how many troops Moscow can keep on their soil, prime minister Vladimir Putin has said.

Only Russia and the “states” of South Ossetia and Abkhazia will decide how many troops Moscow can keep on their soil, prime minister Vladimir Putin has said.

The statement is being seen as a signal that the Kremlin will do as it pleases in the separatist Georgian regions, regardless of Western demands.

The statement was in frank defiance of calls by Georgia, the US and the European Union for a withdrawal of most Russian troops from the breakaway territories, which only Russia and Nicaragua have recognised as independent nations.

Mr Putin said Russia would keep its promise to pull back from the strips of land surrounding South Ossetia and Abkhazia once European Union monitors were deployed, but any “possible” Russian pullout from South Ossetia and Abkhazia themselves was a “separate issue”.

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