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Russia: We've completed pullback

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  • Russia says its completed cease-fire mandated withdrawal from Georgia
  • But presence of Russian troops in 'buffer zones' concerns U.S., Georgia
  • Georgia says Russian troops "putting on peacekeeper hats"
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TBILISI, Georgia (CNN) -- Russia said Friday that its forces have withdrawn from Georgia into South Ossetia, fulfilling its end of the cease-fire agreement reached last weekend.

Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn says Russian troops are in full compliance with the cease-fire agreement.

But Georgia's Interior Ministry said the Russians were "just changing hats" to make themselves look like peacekeepers.

Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov said Friday that Russia's withdrawal went without incident, according to a report by the Interfax news agency.

Russia says its remaining forces in Georgia are peacekeepers who have pulled back into buffer zones outside two breakaway Georgian provinces, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia insists that it has the right to create these zones under the cease-fire deal. But U.S. Deputy State Department spokesman Robert Wood said, "establishing checkpoints and buffer zones are definitely not part of the agreement."

The six-point cease-fire deal established that Russian forces will take "additional security measures" while the two sides await an international peace-monitoring mechanism.

Under previous agreements, the Russian military was stationed inside the two provinces as peacekeepers but did not have forces across the boundary with Georgia.

Russia attacked in response to Georgia's campaign against the separatist territory of South Ossetia on August 7.

Russia -- which supports the breakaway provinces' ambitions -- sent tanks, troops and armored vehicles into South Ossetia and Abkhazia the following day, advancing into Georgia across the administrative borders with those regions. Video Watch more on Russia's withdrawal »

Russia has argued that its peacekeeping forces need protection from the Georgian military. Georgia has said that the peacekeeping troops are under no threat and that Russia's real intent is to expand its military presence in Georgia.

Georgia's Interior Ministry said Friday that Russian troops were no longer in control of Gori, a key city along the country's main east-west route.

A CNN producer outside the capital, Tbilisi, on Friday saw some Russian soldiers making slight changes to their military uniforms, adding a white armband to appear as peacekeepers.

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"Russian troops are in full compliance with international agreements," Russian military spokesman Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said Friday, adding that soldiers were in the final phase of their move into buffer zones and would be done by the end of the day.

The Georgian ministry said the Russian peacekeeper checkpoints were farther into the country than the peace agreement allowed.

The commander of Russia's land forces, Gen. Vladimir Boldyrev, said Russian peacekeeping troops would be stationed at posts that troops had been constructing since the invasion, some of them inside Georgian territory. Russia argues that it is allowed to expand its security zone under a 1992 agreement.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe believes that the buffer zones should be 4 miles (7 kilometers) wide.

Nogovitsyn confirmed Friday that the Russian military had suspended cooperation with NATO because of the rift over Georgia. He also questioned why ships from NATO nations Germany and Spain had sailed into the Black Sea in recent days. Video Watch more on Russia and NATO »

Nogovitsyn said agents from Georgia's Interior Ministry used physical force to question two Ossetians about Russian forces on Monday. But Georgia denied the accusation, saying it had no presence in South Ossetia.

Most of the fighting has been centered in pro-Moscow South Ossetia, where Russian and Georgian soldiers fought street by street, destroying buildings and splitting up families.

"We were hiding under the building," a woman said. "The rest of the house was on fire. We couldn't get out."

Another woman said she was still looking for relatives she hasn't seen since before the fighting.

In one place, a turret blown off a Georgian tank crashed through a roof.


"If it wasn't for Russian soldiers, South Ossetia would now be part of Georgia," a 21-year-old Russian soldier named Alexei said.

Washington has been pushing its allies to isolate Russia diplomatically over the incursion by suspending NATO-Russian contacts.

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