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The Russians Leave Poti -- At Last

A Russian tank leaving for Abkhazia

Noon local time (8 a.m. GMT)

Up to 150 Russian soldiers left Poti this morning -- their entire contingent. At exactly 8 a.m. the Russians vacated the Nabada checkpoint; 15 minutes later the personnel stationed at the Seventh Kilometer checkpoint followed them.

The Russian forces and their military hardware formed a long column. There were eight loaded Ural trucks and 10 armored personnel carriers; Russian flags were flying on the armored vehicles.

The soldiers were not aggressive towards journalists -- they were even waving good-bye to us. But they still declined to make any comments. On their way out of Poti they were taking photographs; some even crossed themselves as they left town. It seemed like they were happy to leave -- needless to say, this mood greatly resonated with how the residents of Poti felt as they watched them leave.

Demining units have started inspecting the areas where the Russian checkpoints were located. Journalists are not allowed to approach those areas, as it is still not known whether it is safe to go there. Presumably, the inspection will be finished by the evening and it will become possible for us to go and see those places then.

This is the first day in a long while that residents of Poti awoke to genuinely good news. A great sense of relief and joy is palpable everywhere.