Russians still here, and detaining people
By David Matsaberidze
Friday, August 22Despite pronouncements from Russian President Dimitry Medvedev and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy that Russian military formations will leave Georgia on August 22, there are as yet no signs that they are going to leave. While top European political leaders continue to visit Georgia, the Russians maintain checkpoints all over Georgian territory, devastate the country’s infrastructure and detain Georgian and foreign officials.
Russian soldiers remain in the city of Poti and continue trying to destroy the Poti coastguard headquarters and the port infrastructure. Russian soldiers have mined again the boats and ships they partially sunk with previous mines and have blown up a Bank of Georgia cash machine. Over 100 Russian gunmen, and five armoured tanks, are moving around the streets of the city looking for plunder. In addition, they continue digging trenches along the bridge through the Nabada settlement. The soldiers have installed further military equipment beside Poti main road and rail bridges. Two Russian helicopters, an `MI-24` and an `MI-8`, have appeared in the sky over this hardware, leading to fears that it may be used to blow both bridges to hinder the transport of humanitarian aid.
Russian soldiers have been firing artillery pieces from the Senaki military base to try and disrupt international flights, which resumed a few days ago. Locals say they heard shooting at 2 a.m. when a civilian plane was making an international flight. Further blasts were heard throughout the night, as the runways and hangars were blown up. Tanks and heavy duty vehicles drove through the city and around the Senaki military base itself.
Likewise Russians continue to plunder the whole Samegrelo Region. The occupiers have stolen equipment from various military bases in the region, loaded it onto over twenty Ural type trucks and driven towards Gali in breakaway Abkhazia. Locals say they have been hearing explosions from Senaki area since yesterday morning.
Russian militaries have also stopped Erik Fournier, the ambassador of France to Georgia, at one of the checkpoints in Gori. The Ambassador was on his back way to Tbilisi from Sachkhere. The Shida Kartli administration reports that Lado Vardzelashvili, the Governor of Shida Kartli, tried to convince the aggressors to release the French diplomat, however, Mr. Fournier was detained for an hour or so. Afterwards, the Ambassador’s car was stopped and checked again at another checkpoint in Igoeti.
The Embassy of France refused to comment on the incident. As a representative of the Embassy stated in a telephone conversation with The Messenger, “the Embassy is not going to make any comment and will not prepare an official press release, as this was an ordinary passenger check, not a detention. The Ambassador is now back in Tbilisi.” The Ambassador had spent the previous evening at Sachkhere military base, meeting and giving moral support to the local population. Mr. Fournier expressed his hope that the Russian President would keep his word and pull his forces out of Georgia.