Bush Turns Up Heat on Russia

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President Bush demanded that Russia withdraw its forces from Georgia, even as he promised a massive U.S. humanitarian aid effort to the embattled former Soviet republic.

"The United States stands with the democratically elected government of Georgia and insists that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected," Bush said sternly during brief remarks in the White House Rose Garden.

A military cargo plane loaded with supplies is already on the way, Bush said. He also demanded that t Russia ensure that "all lines of communication and transport, including seaports, roads and airports," remain open to let deliveries and civilians through.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will also travel Paris to assist the West's diplomatic efforts on the crisis, and then to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi.

Russia Violates Truce

Earlier Wednesday Georgian officials said hat Russia violated a truce by sending tanks into a strategic city and seizing a Georgia military base.

In the newest development, Georgia's Security Council chief Alexander Lomaia said that Russia had moved 50 tanks into Gori, a strategic town 15 miles from the border with separatist South Ossetia, violating the new accord.

News of the alledged violation came less than 12 hours after Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili agreed to a French-brokered cease-fire plan.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that Russia was halting military action but still ordered resistance or aggressive actions to be squelched.

Saakashvili tried to regain control over his country's pro-Russian breakaway province of South Ossetia, but suffered a beating from Russian tanks and aircraft that has left the country with even less control over territory than it had before.

On Wednesday, Georgia said that it had pulled its troops from the only area of the breakaway province of Abkhazia they still occupied. But a Russian general on Tuesday said that separatists forces had driven out the Georgians and not the Russian military.

Day of Mourning

Meanwhile, Russia and Georgia proclaimed a day of mourning on Wednesday before difficult negotiations on the details of an EU-brokered peace plan continue.

Russia accused Georgia of slaying more than 2,000 people in South Ossetia, most of whom were civilians. Although the charge could not be substantiated, witnesses who fled the war zone over the weekend said hundreds had died.

The total death count was expected to climb higher since large areas of Georgia were still too dangerous for journalists to enter.

Georgia, which currently seeking NATO membership, borders the Black Sea between Turkey and Russia. They were ruled by Moscow for most of the two centuries before the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia have run their own affairs without international recognition since fighting to split from Georgia in the early 1990s.

Both separatist provinces are backed by Russia, which appears open to be absorbing them.

Source: The Associated Press, Reuters

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