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The Tale Of The Weeping Russian Officer

10 p.m. local time (6 p.m. GMT)

Lots of people have stayed outside, and there are still flags and banners waving in the streets. Cars keep honking, people keep chanting, the atmosphere is still defiant. The Russian soldiers, for their part, are still at their checkpoints, digging trenches with their excavators.

As I was returning from the rally, I met a 22-year-old Poti resident and ethnic Russian named Alexandr Medvedev. We chatted a bit. He said that, until recently, he was proud to share his surname with the Russian president. But now, he said, he is ashamed of Russia's actions.

There's an interesting story that I've been hoping to tell for a long time, but I've been unsure of its veracity and so have simply been collecting information. Here's what I know:

In the early days of the conflict, word spread that one afternoon when the Russian troops first entered Poti an armored Russian vehicle stopped in front of one of our secondary schools -- the one named after Ivane Javakhishvili, located on Akaki street. It's an old building that in Soviet times hosted a Russian-language secondary school.

The story goes that the school security guard tried to run away when he saw the armored vehicle and a Russian general inside -- but the general stopped him and ordered him to open the door. Then, according to local residents who witnessed the scene, something extraordinary happened: the general started going from classroom to classroom, literally kissing the walls of the school. He was said to have asked for Vera Konstantinovna, the school's former principal, before leaving the building.

Konstantinovna was the school's director for several decades. For the last two years, she's been confined to bed. I went to see her to ask about the rumors of the mysterious Russian general. She said that if it's true, it must have been one of her former pupils -- a boy called Igor U. (name withheld), whose father was a military officer living in Georgia.

I asked other people, too, including teachers who currently work at the school. It turns out that there are other theories about who the mysterious Russian officer might have been. Some name a certain Nikolai S., who also grew up in a military family in Poti. Others have different ideas.

So the phantom officer's identity remains a mystery. But one thing is clear: Residents will continue to tell the story for a long time to come of a Russian general standing in one of Poti's secondary schools, in the midst of this war, with tears in his eyes.