Russia announced Tuesday it would keep 7,600 troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia for the foreseeable future, asserting power in the breakaway regions even as it began a pullout from positions deeper in Georgia.
The Kremlin's plans for a heavy military footprint in the enclaves mock Georgia's hopes that a revised peace agreement will lead to a complete Russian withdrawal from the fractured country at the heart of a bitter fray between Moscow and the West.
The deal that emerged from a day of frantic French diplomacy Monday may defuse tension by removing Russian forces from positions they hold in Georgia weeks after last month's war.
But even as it promises to pull back from positions outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Russia is strengthening its grip on the separatist regions themselves. That runs counter to Western demands that they remain a part of Georgia and casts a shadow over President Mikhail Saakashvili's hopes of uniting the nation.