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Russian blockade continues in gori

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Picture: (David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters)
Russian troops stand at the main road to Tbilisi near the Georgian town of Gori.

Russian troops today allowed some humanitarian supplies into the strategic city of Gori but continued their blockade, raising doubts about Russian intentions in the war-battered country. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was heading for Georgia for talks with the president.

Gori, about 75 kilometers west of the capital Tbilisi, is key to when – or if – Russia will honor the terms of a cease-fire that calls for both sides to pull their forces back to the positions they held before fighting broke out last week in the separatist region of South Ossetia.

Officials say Russian forces also are in several other cities deep in Georgia.

By holding Gori, Russian forces effectively cut the country in half because the city sits along Georgia’s only significant east-west highway. Russian military vehicles were blocking the eastern road into the city today, although they allowed in one Georgia bus filled with loaves of bread.

Alexander Lomaia, the head of Georgia’s national security council says "it’s quiet there, but now there are problems with food".

Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili meanwhile says that there are no Russian troops in the city of Kutaisi, Georgia’s second-largest city, despite reports they were headed in that direction overnight. However, he and Lomaia both say that troops remain in the Black Sea port city of Poti.

In a report released today, Human Rights Watch says it has collected evidence of Russian warplanes using cluster bombs against civilian areas in Georgia. The international rights group urged Russia to stop using the weapons, which more than 100 nations have agreed to outlaw.

The group says Russian military aircraft killed at least 11civilians and injured dozens in the town of Gori and the village of Ruisi.