In western Georgia, a column of 83 tanks, APCs and trucks hauling artillery moved away from the Senaki military base north toward the border of Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region on Friday afternoon. Georgian police said the vehicles came from the base, which has been under Russian control for more than a week.
In central Georgia, at least 40 Russian military vehicles left the strategic crossroads city of Gori, heading north toward South Ossetia and Russia. Gori straddles the country's main east-west highway south of South Ossetia, the separatist region at the heart of the fighting.
Meanwhile, it was confirmed that Russian forces had pulled up from their former checkpoints around the village. Igoeti, on the road between Gori and the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, had been the Russians' closest position to the Georgian capital.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had promised to have his troops out of Georgia by Friday—but a top Russian general later amended that prediction, saying it could take at least 10 days before the bulk of Russian troops and hardware could be withdrawn.
The short but intense war near Russia's southern border has deeply strained relations between Moscow and the West. Russia has frozen its military cooperation with NATO, Moscow's Cold War foe, underscoring a growing division in Europe. Georgia's pro-Western leaders are pushing to join NATO, angering a resurgent Russia.
The major fighting began Aug. 7 when Georgia launched a barrage targeting South Ossetia, which claims independence and has Russian support. Russian forces quickly drove the Georgians back and drove deep into Georgia, taking control of cities and bases along the main highway.
Under an EU-brokered cease-fire deal, Russian forces are to pull back to positions they held before the fighting erupted, and Western leaders have called for a complete withdrawal from Georgia. But Russia says it will keep troops it calls peacekeepers in South Ossetia and Abkhazia as well as in buffer zones stretching into Georgia proper.
The agreement says Russian forces can be in a security zone that extends about 4 miles into Georgia from South Ossetia.