Georgian Killed Near Russian Post

APA Georgian soldier standing at his checkpoint near a Russian troops' checkpoint up the road from Gori on Wednesday.
Raising tensions, a Georgian police officer was killed Wednesday by gunfire that came from the direction of a Russian checkpoint near separatist South Ossetia, a government spokesman said.

The policeman was at a Georgian checkpoint near Gori about a kilometer from the Russian post, Georgian Interior Ministry official Shota Utiashvili said. It was not immediately clear who opened fire. The Georgians did not return fire, and the policeman later died at a hospital, Utiashvili said.

An official at the headquarters of Russian forces in South Ossetia said Russian troops at the checkpoint did not open fire.

Meanwhile, more signs of Russian troop pullbacks emerged Wednesday. Russian forces began to dismantle another post near Abkhazia. Rustavi-2 TV showed Russian soldiers removing a fence at the post near Khobi.

Russian forces also appeared to be getting ready to withdraw from two sizable camps on the outskirts of the Black Sea port of Poti, Mayor Vano Saginadze said.

Since the war in early August, Russia has recognized Georgia's two separatist regions -- South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- as independent countries and has deployed forces at positions ringing the two regions.

Under a deal reached by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday, Russia has pledged to withdraw its forces from those zones within a month, after unarmed European Union observers are deployed. But Russia said it would maintain 7,600 troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia for the foreseeable future.

Addressing the State Duma in a closed session Wednesday, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov informed deputies which units would be deployed to the two rebel regions, Interfax reported. A special brigade will be formed on the basis of the 693rd Motorized Infantry Regiment and will be permanently deployed in the South Ossetian towns of Tskhinvali and Dzhava, Interfax said.

Before Serdyukov's address, Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said the defense minister's report could be followed by a vote on whether to boost defense spending in the 2009-11 federal budget.

In Washington, the U.S. Defense Department said Tuesday that it was sending an assessment team to Georgia to help determine the country's "legitimate needs" as a way of showing U.S. support for its security.

Russia moved to block the U.S. effort at the United Nations. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin circulated a draft resolution to the Security Council that would impose a UN arms embargo on Georgia, preventing the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of arms to the country.

n Israel has told businessmen involved in military sales to Georgia to cease visits to the former Soviet republic for the time being, Israeli defense officials said Wednesday.

The decision was made this week because Israel is concerned about damage to its relations with Russia, the officials said.

For the same reason, Israel decided to stop most weapons sales to Georgia even before the Russia-Georgia war last month.

(AP, MT)