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Initial Check Allays Mine Fears

Out at the military port today
Out at the military port today

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

There's been an important development: Four inspectors from a de-mining unit arrived in Poti today from Tbilisi and checked for explosives at a number of sites. Their arrival flies in the face of repeated statements by local authorities who said no de-miners would come to Poti until the Russian forces were gone -- to avoid any potential confrontation, I think. But because the Russian presence has gone on so long -- with no signs they'll be leaving anytime soon -- the explosives experts were brought in.

But I learned that they examined military bases, the military port, and the coast-guard facilities and concluded that those places are all free of mines.

The possible use of cluster bombs has been a major issue. I've been told that an unexploded Russian cluster bomb was removed from the grounds of the military port by Russian forces sometime around August 20. Apparently some particles or pieces remained, however, and the explosives experts from the de-mining team took them for further tests. At this hour, the de-miners have already left Poti after concluding that the locations that were thought to be at the highest risk are in fact clear of mines. A much more extensive search will be conducted once the Russians are gone.

On another note, as I was walking through the center of Poti on my way home today, I noticed that restaurants were full of diners. That's a pretty big change from the past several weeks. Restaurants reopened shortly after the bombardment and occupation, but nobody was actually going out to dinner. But now, it looks like people have started to dine out again -- yet another sign that the seemingly never-ending Russian presence here has become a fact of life. A frustrating one, of course, but a simple fact.