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Town Abuzz With Talk Of Russian Pullout

Poti's central market
Poti's central market
2 p.m. local time (10 a.m. GMT)

About two hours ago, the calm here was broken by the roar of Russian Mi-24 and Mi-8 helicopters flying overhead. One of them landed near the checkpoint at Nabada. I don't know anything yet about who or what those helicopters were bringing. Local officials assume they might have been shuttling in new soldiers for a troop rotation. They're guessing, it seems, because they say they don't dare to approach the checkpoints to inquire about it because those Russian troops might react defensively and they don't want to provoke trouble.

Another source, though, told me that's not the case; it's not a troop rotation. That source says the helicopters were escorting senior Russian military officers who should deliver orders and details for a withdrawal. The source says Russian officers are in tents at Nabada right now. I'm waiting for my husband to come and pick me up to take me out there, so maybe I'll have something for my next post.

The standoff at the school for internally displaced children from Abkhazia has been broken, too. It was solved in rather unconventional fashion after parents, pupils, and teachers entered the school to confront those families (who are themselves displaced Abkhazia residents, you'll recall). Apparently there was a lot of arguing, but no violence, and the intruders agreed to leave the building. So the IDP community has successfully defused the problem and can be certain that school will start on September 15, as planned.