U.S. flagship reaches Georgian port held by Russia

STEVE GUTTERMAN
Associated Press
September 6, 2008

The flagship of the U.S. Navy’s Mediterranean fleet anchored Friday outside this key Georgian port, defiantly delivering humanitarian aid to the war-ravaged U.S. ally in a slap at Moscow.

The USS Mount Whitney was the first Navy ship to travel to Poti since Georgia’s five-day war with Russia last month. The continued presence of hundreds of Russian soldiers here has been a major point of friction between Russia and the West, which insists Moscow hasn’t honored a cease-fire deal to pull back to positions held before fighting broke out Aug. 7.

Out on the water, the Mount Whitney rode at anchor in choppy seas and a brisk wind as Navy officers escorted visitors around. One of Poti’s two Russian camps could be seen from the deck, the blue flag used by Russian peacekeeping forces flapping in the breeze.

Two U.S. ships had already come and gone from Georgia carrying humanitarian aid, but they anchored at Batumi, a smaller port to the south with no Russian military presence.

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