TBILISI, Georgia – Georgia's president said early Wednesday that he agreed to the "general principals" of a plan for ending fighting with Russian troops in his country.
The cease-fire plan brokered by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France calls for both Russian and Georgian troops to return to their positions before fighting erupted around the breakaway province of South Ossetia last week.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev agreed to the proposal in a meeting with Sarkozy in Moscow. The French leader then traveled to Tbilisi where he spent several hours ironing it out with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.
Saakashvili emerged afterward and told reporters early Wednesday that "there should be a cease-fire." He said he agreed to the "general principles" of the deal but said he saw no reason to sign it as it was only a "political document." Sarkozy said the plan would be presented soon to EU foreign ministers in Brussels.
"We need legal details, Security Council resolutions, and we need more presence on the ground of international observers," Saakashvili said.
The diplomatic developments followed a declaration by Medvedev that "the aggressor has been punished and suffered very significant losses. Its military has been disorganized." The Kremlin called a halt to its devastating assault on Georgia — five days of air and ground attacks that left homes in smoldering ruins and uprooted 100,000 people.
Georgia said the bombs and shells were still coming hours after the cease-fire was declared, and Saakashvili said Russia's aim all along was not to gain control of two disputed provinces but to "destroy" the smaller nation, a former Soviet state and current U.S. ally.
Medvedev, speaking in Moscow, said Georgia had paid enough for its attack on South Ossetia, a separatist region along the Russian border with close ties to Russia.
Still, the president ordered his defense minister at a televised Kremlin meeting: "If there are any emerging hotbeds of resistance or any aggressive actions, you should take steps to destroy them."
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, were believed to have died since Georgia launched its crackdown on South Ossetia on Thursday, drawing the punishing response from its much larger northern neighbor. A Russian estimate put the figu and see the true scope of the damage.
The first relief flight from the U.N. refugee agency arrived in Georgia as the number of people uprooted by the conflict neared 100,000. Thousands streamed into the capital.
Those left behind in devastated regions of Georgia cowered in rat-infested cellars or wandered nearly deserted cities.
In Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian provincial capital now under Russian control, the body of a Georgian soldier lay in the street along with debris as separatist fighters launched rockets at a Georgian plane soaring overhead.
A tour by AP journalists found the heaviest damage around the government center. Near the city center, pieces of tanks lay near a bomb crater. The turret of one tank was blown into the front of the printing school across the street. A severed foot lay on the sidewalk nearby. Several residential areas seemed to have little damage beyond shattered windows.
A poster hanging nearby showed Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and the words "Say yes to peace and stability." Broken glass and other debris littered the ground.
Besides the dead, tens of thousands of terrified people have fled the fighting — South Ossetians north to Russia, and Georgians east toward the capital of Tbilisi and west to the country's Black Sea coast.
Among those left behind was 70-year-old Vahktang Chkekvadze, a Georgian villager living in Ruisi who was picking away what was left of a window frame torn by an explosion.
"I always hide in the basement," he said, used to living in a conflict zone. "But this time the explosion came so abruptly, I don't remember what happened afterward."
Two men and a woman in the village, in undisputed Georgian territory just outside South Ossetia, were killed just half an hour before Medvedev went on television to announce the pause in fighting.
Amid the suggestions the military action was cooling down, the Russia-Georgia dispute reached the international courts, with the Georgian security council saying it had sued for ethnic cleansing. Earlier the Russians accused the Georgians of genocide.
And the conflict — and its Cold War echoes — continued to play out on the international stage. The leaders of five former Soviet bloc states spoke out against Russian domination at a rally in Tbilisi.
"Our neighbor thinks it can fight us. We are telling it no," said Polish President Lech Kaczynski, who was joined by the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Ukraine at the rally. Kaczynski says Russia wanted a return to "old times.