31 Aug 2008

Georgia says Russian troops blocking return of refugees

8:17 am on 31 August 2008

The governor of Gori says Russian troops are stopping thousands of refugees from returning to their homes in Georgia.

Governor Lado Vardzelashvili said on Saturday that 28,000 people from villages in the Gori region still could not go home. The number could not be independently verified.

Russia has ignored calls by the United States and European powers to withdraw from Georgia and has recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as independent states.

European Union leaders are to meet in Brussels on Monday to debate their response.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Friday that US military advisers were involved in the conflict and accused the White House of provoking the crisis to help Republicans win the presidential election in the United States on 4 November.

A senior US diplomat in the region has said Washington pleaded with Tbilisi to refrain from attacking the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali and stay out of the conflict.

Fighting between Russia and Georgia began on 7 August after the Georgian military tried to retake South Ossetia by force. Russian forces launched a counter-attack and drove them out.

Gori was occupied by Russian forces during the conflict.