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Displaced Families Occupy School



5 p.m. local time (1 p.m. GMT)

I've just learned that about seven families, all displaced from Abkhazia, are basically squatting at a secondary school in Poti. The building has served for years as a school for internally displaced persons (teachers and pupils alike) from Abkhazia. But these displaced families entered the premises without anyone's permission and are apparently determined to turn the school, which is still on summer holiday, into their temporary home.

That sparked a dispute with local authorities. Police were sent. The deputy mayor of Poti, Gela Lagvilava, even went to the scene and tried to convince those families that they had to leave the school -- that the new academic year would start on September 15. The efforts have so far been in vain -- the families have refused to leave the building.

I know the families had spoken to some of these authorities before; they'd complained of being forced to stay in rented flats, claiming that the accommodations that authorities offered were too small, too shabby, and too far from the center of town. Deputy Mayor Lagvilava claimed that the families were offered a variety of options but only wanted spacious flats in central Poti.

Whether or not that's overstating their demands, it's clear that the situation was left unresolved. One official said at least one of those displaced persons, out of sheer frustration, threatened to take their complaint to the Russian soldiers if they were thrown out of the school. With the situation in Pori already very tense, the deputy mayor said authorities have decided not to forcibly evict anyone for the moment so as not to aggravate things further.

As for the Russian soldiers, they remain firmly stationed at their checkpoints at this hour. I was told this morning that an excavator was moving earth there again. The Russian digging usually stops at midday and resumes again in the evening; let's see whether that pattern is repeated tonight. The bottom line is that there are no signs here that the Russians are planning a pullout.

As I wrote in previous posts, Poti's main port continues to function.

The same cannot be said of the military port. The authorities have warned people to avoid the port, since they think it's still unsafe. The port has been looted, and it hasn't been checked yet by de-mining units.

Despite the awful heat, Poti beach is virtually empty. Apparently, no one's in the mood for swimming.
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