U.S. says Russia is beginning pullout from Georgia

Published 11:01 am Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The Bush administration said Wednesday there are ‘‘early signs’’ of a Russian troop withdrawal from war-battered Georgia but that it is not significant and needs to increase.

‘‘Both the size and pace of the withdrawal needs to increase, and needs to increase sooner rather than later,’’ National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. ‘‘I don’t think they need any more additional time.’’

He spoke on Air Force One as President Bush flew from his vacation at his Texas ranch to a speech before the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Orlando, Fla.

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said his troops will complete their pullback by Friday, but few signs of movement have been seen other than the departure of a small contingent that has held the strategically key city of Gori. On Wednesday, Russian forces built a sentry post just 30 miles from the Georgian capital, appearing to dig in to positions deep inside Georgia.

Traveling with Bush, Johndroe said, ‘‘We are beginning to see the early signs of some withdrawal. It is not significant and it needs to increase.’’

In Washington, Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman said ‘‘there appears to be some movement out of Gori’’ but that it remains to be seen ‘‘whether that is the beginning of a true withdrawal … or some sort of token effort’’ designed to get the press to report progress.

Whitman also said there have been discussions with Russia’s seizure of a number of U.S. Humvees in Georgia. ‘‘It is unresolved at this point,’’ Whitman said.

He said it was unclear how many of the vehicles where at the port at the time of the incident and exactly how many were taken. They had been used in a recent exercise with the Georgians, who U.S. trainers were preparing for deployment to Iraq.