A small column of Russian tanks and armored vehicles left the strategically key Georgian city of Gori on Tuesday and a Russian officer said they were heading back to South Ossetia and then Russia.
The column, which also apparently included a mobile rocket-launcher, passed the village of Ruisi, outside Gori on the road to South Ossetia Tuesday afternoon.
Col. Igor Konoshenkov, a Russian military officer, told The Associated Press at the scene that the unit was headed for South Ossetia and, ultimately, back to Russia.
Konoshenkov said the movement was part of the Russian pullback mandated by a cease-fire that requires both sides to return to the positions they held before the Aug. 7 outbreak of heavy fighting in South Ossetia, a separatist Georgian province that has close ties to Russia.
Of course it could also be a simple repositioning of troops by the Russians. We'll probably know more when the 20 observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) are on site and able to better assess what is going on. But Gori remains pretty much closed to outsiders. Russian troops continue to restrict access to the town.
I'll stick by my prediction that we're going to see some major league foot dragging by Russia before it actually withdraws its troops. I'm of the opinion it still wants to make clear how powerless the West is in actually effecting events there, and so will use the withdrawal phase to further make that point.