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'Aren't They Ashamed?' -- Residents Vent Outrage At Russia


The possibility of a U.S. warship sharing the town with Russian troops, like these soldiers near a checkpoint in Poti's suburbs, is making some people nervous.

6:30 p.m. local time (1430 GMT)

Everyone here is shocked by Russia's decision to formally recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

I decided to head out into the town and speak with some of the residents to find out their feelings.

"What right does Russia have to rob us of our land?" 41-year-old Madona Beridze told me as she was walking across the bridge over the Rioni River in downtown Poti. "I am a refugee from Abkhazia and I don't trust the Russians. And I would like to warn my fellow Abkhaz not to trust the Russians."

"These lands have always belonged to Georgia, and it will always be like this," said 47-year-old Guliko Mikadze, who said her children currently live in the United States. "Nobody should have any other aspirations for them. And the world should react adequately. I don't want war, but these lands will be ours again."

"During the Second World War, we gave Russian soldiers refuge and food. We shared everything we had with them and we got very close to one another," said 78-year-old Lili Babilua, my grandmother's neighbor, whom I've known for a long time. "I have nothing against Russians, but unfortunately today our children are afraid of Russian soldiers. How could they recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Aren't they ashamed?"

Sixty-year-old Shota Buadze, known far and wide by Poti's children, was selling lollipops as usual on the Rioni bridge. He told me: "Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been [de facto] Russian for quite a long time. Now they've just officially sealed the deal and openly declared their intentions. The world has to stop Russia."

The other big topic of the day here is the expectation that either a U.S. warship, the USS McFaul, or a U.S. Coast Guard cutter will be coming to Poti tomorrow to deliver humanitarian supplies. The McFaul already delivered aid to the port of Batumi.

The possible arrival of the U.S. ship is a matter of great excitement -- and concern. Because of the Russian presence in Poti, there's worry the situation could escalate.

"I think the decision to send those ships to Batumi first was the right one," Madona Beridze told me, "because when I see Russian military hardware here in Poti and see Russian soldiers, I am afraid that something bad might happen. I pray to God that everything goes smoothly."

Guliko Mikadz said, "I am happy that the United States and other countries are helping us so much, but I am very much afraid about tomorrow. I am afaid of any kind of provacations that might occur on the side of the Russian aggressors."

But Lili Babilua -- she's 78, remember -- says she plans to go to the port and welcome the U.S. ship if it arrives.

"And I am sure I will be not be alone," she says. "I just hope everything will go peacefully."
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