Georgia demands pullout of Russian peacekeepers

In a 144-0 vote, with opposition lawmakers declining to cast ballots, parliament adopted a resolution it says obliges the government to begin a process that would lead to the pullout of Russian peacekeepers from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

President Mikhail Saakashvili has final say on the issue, and will likely try to use the vote as leverage in dealing with Russia on a host of disputes that have poisoned relations, including Russian bans on Georgian wines and mineral water and Georgian efforts to block Russian membership in the World Trade Organization.

The two regions have run their own affairs with Russian support since breaking away from central government control in wars in the early 1990s, and have resisted efforts by Saakashvili to rein them in, according to the AP.

Russian peacekeepers serve in Abkhazia on their own and in South Ossetia as part of a force that also includes Georgian and South Ossetian contingents. Georgian authorities have long accused the Russian troops of siding with the separatists.

The parliament resolution said the actions of the Russian peacekeepers "are one of the main barriers on the path to peaceful resolution of the conflicts" in Abkhazia and South Ossetia