Russia halts military action in Georgia, both countries back French plan

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev ordered a halt to his country's military action in Georgia on Tuesday and gave his support to a French-backed provisional ceasefire, saying the plan "points the way towards gradual normalization" in the war-torn region.

Oil pipeline through Georgia closed as a precaution

A Georgian man is seen in front of a destroyed building in the village of Ruisi, near the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia, on Tuesday. ((Sergei Grits/Associated Press))
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev ordered a halt to his country's military action in Georgia on Tuesday and gave his support to a French-backed provisional ceasefire, saying the plan "points the way towards gradual normalization" in the war-torn region.

Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy emerged from talks in Moscow on Tuesday to announce that a deal had been agreed upon. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili a few hours later gave his own blessings to the ceasefire, with some modifications.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, right, greets French President Nicholas Sarkozy during a meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow on Tuesday. ((Misha Japaridze/Pool/Associated Press))

"The aggressor has been punished and suffered very significant losses. Its military has been disorganized," Medvedev said in Moscow during a joint press conference with the French president.

Sarkozy — the current head of the European Union — said there was "no ambiguity" about the agreement even though the session did not produce a full-fledged peace deal.

"For all those who aspire for peace, this is good news," he said, before heading to Georgia to discuss the deal with Saakashvili.

The French president said his "frank and free" discussion focused on the "short-term means to achieve an agreement so there will be a definite cessation of hostilities."

Following his meeting with Sarkozy, Saakashvili announced that he would accept a slightly altered version of the plan. The changes — which have been approved by Medvedev — included removing a reference to talks on the future status of South Ossetia, Saakashvili and Sarkozy said during a joint news conference Wednesday, according to Reuters.  

"It is a political document. It is an agreement of principles … and I think we have full coincidence of principles," Saakashvili said.

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States welcomed the progress made in Moscow.

"The most important thing right now is that the military operations need to stop," Rice said.

"We will continue to work diplomatically on this matter," she said.

Harper condemned Russian action

Defence Minister Peter MacKay Tuesday welcomed Russia's agreement to halt the fighting.

The defence minister said the conflict was an alarming situation, not just for Georgia, but for all of Europe.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has joined world leaders in calling for a ceasefire. Harper issued a statement on Monday condemning the Russian action.

"Russian and Georgian forces must immediately cease hostilities throughout Georgia," Harper said.

International Co-operation Minister Bev Oda announced Tuesday that Canada is contributing as much as $1 million in aid to provide Georgians affected by the conflict with emergency medical care, safe water and other basic items, such as blankets and clothing.

Medvedev says Georgia 'punished'

Earlier Tuesday, Medvedev met with Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov in Moscow and said that Georgia "has been punished and suffered very significant losses."

At the same time, however, Medvedev ordered his country's military to quell any signs of Georgian resistance.

Saakashvili, meanwhile, said that Russian forces are continuing their attacks in his country.

Speaking to a flag-waving crowd of 50,000 in the capital Tbilisi, Saakashvili denounced the "ruthless and heartless" Russian military campaign.

An Ossetian soldier stands near a burned tank in Tskhinvali, capital of the Georgian breakaway enclave of South Ossetia, on Monday. ((Mikhail Metzel/Associated Press))

"Together, with you, I will get revenge," Saakashvili vowed, adding that "Georgia won't be on its knees."

Saakashvili also spoke of "worrying developments" in which he said police stations across Georgia were being attacked by Russia along with other targets, such as the hospital in the central city of Gori.

The city has faced heavy bombardment in recent days. Reports said administrative buildings were being hit and that both the university and the post office had been seen burning.

Capital on edge

In Tbilisi, panic and rumours spread among residents late Monday, when Georgian soldiers withdrawing from Gori arrived there, the CBC's Mike Hornbrook reported Tuesday from the city.

"This is an edgy city," Hornbrook said.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia

"Word spread very quickly that the Russians were going to overrun the capital, and we saw as a result of that panic buying of gasoline, hoarding of food," Hornbrook said.

But on Tuesday, daily life in Tbilisi had returned to normal.

"The gas stations are wide open and largely empty; there's food in the shops," Hornbrook said.

Elsewhere on Tuesday, an Abkhazian defence official said Abkhazian rebels had pushed the last Georgian forces out the separatist province.

One Abkhaz reservist was killed and two people were injured in the operation to push Georgian forces out of the disputed northern Kodori Gorge, said deputy Defence Minister Maj.-Gen. Anatoly Zaitsev.

As well, British oil company BP shut down one of three oil pipelines running through Georgia.

BP said the pipeline, which carries 90,000 barrels of oil each day, has not been damaged in the conflict and was closed as a precautionary measure.

Competing accusations

Georgians and Russians have each accused the other of killing civilians and engaging in ethnic cleansing in South Ossetia, a charge both countries' leaders have denied.

On Tuesday, the Georgian security council filed a lawsuit against Russia in the International Court of Justice for alleged ethnic cleansing.

The lawsuit was brought to hold Russia to account for its "legacy of ethnic cleansing, abuse and denial of the rights of some 300,000 refugees to return" to Georgia from Abkhazia, Payam Akhavan, a lawyer representing the Georgian government, told the CBC's Dianne Buckner.

Georgia launched a military offensive on Friday to regain South Ossetia, which broke from Georgia in the early 1990s as the Soviet Union neared collapse and has been run by a Russian-backed separatist government.

Russia responded by sending about 2,500 troops into the territory. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of people are believed to have died during the short conflict.

While South Ossetia's independence is not recognized internationally, it has close ties to Russia, and almost all of its 70,000 residents have Russian passports.

With files from the Associated Press