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Russian retreat delayed -

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BRENDAN TREMBATH: Russian troops and tanks are still deployed in several parts of Georgia, despite
pressure from the west to withdraw quickly.

The Russian and Georgian Governments disagree on whether or not Russia is withdrawing.

In southern Russia, there's little sign of military traffic on the road.

The Russian commanders say the forces are pulling back, but not necessarily withdrawing.

Moscow correspondent Scott Bevan reports from the southern Russian city of Vladikavkaz.

SCOTT BEVAN: Russia may have been quick in sending forces into Georgia, when the crisis in South
Ossetia flared, but it seems those troops are not applying the same pace to come back across the

President Dmitry Medvedev indicated the pulling out of his country's forces would begin at noon on
Monday, yet six hours after that appointed time, the road in southern Russia that had been the main
route to conflict 12 days ago was not exactly a traffic jam of khaki and green.

(Sound of military vehicles)

Well, we're on the main road out of Vladikavkaz, heading towards the border, and we've been driving
just over half an hour, and have come across our first military convoy, coming in the opposite
direction. It consisted of 18 trucks.

Now, those trucks looked pretty empty. There were no troops in the back, and there was no sign of
any sort of major hardware, but nevertheless, it was a convoy heading away from the border, away
from South Ossetia and upon Russian soil.

After driving for another hour, we came across no more convoys, just a couple of military camps by
the road. One was a maintenance depot, and the other consisted of trucks with long trailers for
carrying tanks.

A soldier there told me they were waiting for the tanks to return, but gave no time frame.

While the military hardware isn't exactly moving quickly, the Russian commanders' brains are, as
they use the subtleties of language to explain their forces' actions.

It's all to do with whether the troops are withdrawing from Georgia or simply pulling back.

The Deputy Chief of Russia's General Staff, Anatoliy Nogovitsyn, explained to journalists what term
was used in the conversation between the Russian and French Presidents, when Dmitry Medvedev
indicated what his troops would do.

(Anatoliy Nogovitsyn speaking)

"There are two principal terms, pulling out and pulling back", he told the media conference. "In
the statements made by the two presidents in the telephone conversation, the term used was pulling

For Dmitry Medvedev, there was no holding back today when it came to Georgia.

Earlier in the day, the Russian President was commemorating conflicts past, meeting veterans from
the Battle of Kursk in World War 2.

Yet, after the fighting in South Ossetia, he had a warning for any future foes.

(Dmitry Medvedev speaking)

"Those who try something similar will get a crushing response," Mr Medvedev said. "For that we have
all possibilities: economic, political and military."

Then, the President flew on to Vladikavkaz, to award medals to some of those involved in the fight
against Georgia.

(Dmitry Medvedev speaking)

"You have shown your best human qualities," he said, "Your professional qualities."

After the praise for those on his side of the border, the Russian President condemned those on the
other side, particularly Georgian leader Mikhail Saakashivili.

"The world has seen there are political monsters even today who kill for political expediency," he
said. Dmitry Medvedev went on to say that Russia will do its best to not allow this crime to go

The International Committee of the Red Cross is keen to see for itself whether crimes have been
committed during the South Ossetian conflict, with both sides accusing each other of atrocities.

The ICRC also wants to determine what's to be done to meet the huge demand for humanitarian aid.

But an ICRC delegation has been unable to get into the disputed region, as it waits for clearance
from Russian and South Ossetian officials.

The ICRC's spokesman, David Pierre Marquet.

DAVID PIERRE MARQUET: The Ossetians are disappointed by the fact that we have no access to the
South Ossetia, because we were invited by the authorities to visit and to evaluate their needs.

SCOTT BEVAN: Why do you believe you have not been able to get into South Ossetia so far?

DAVID PIERRE MARQUET: We still don't know.

SCOTT BEVAN: The delegation is meeting with senior Russian government members, including Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov, to try and clear the hurdles so that it can finally gain access to the
battle-scarred region.

This is Scott Bevan in Vladikavkaz, southern Russia, for The World Today.