Reporter's diary: Gori withdrawal?

Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher sees no signs that the Russians have started to pull out.

by

    Russian soldiers sit on top of an Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC) and there appears to be no sign that they are withdrawing [GALLO/GETTY]

    If a Russian withdrawal is underway, there seems to be no sign of it here in Gori. 

    This is the town which has essentially become the Russian base in northern Georgia.

    There appears to be no pull out.

    In fact, throughout the day, more men and machines moved deeper into the country rather than pulling back and heading home.

    By the side of the main highway to Tblisi, the Georgian capital, diggers worked to cover tank positions - scooping dirt and burying the body. This was a sure sign that no orders to withdraw had reached here.

    On the hills, vehicles were being covered with camouflage netting; trenches and gun positions being dug out.

    Confused

    The Georgians, sitting a short distance away, had little idea what was happening and even less how to react.  Hundreds of soldiers sat at their checkpoints - confused. 

    They argued between themselves as they tried to decide if they should block our car from travelling to Gori. Eventually we were waved through.

    Later, close to the same point, not far from the village of Ingoeti, the Georgians decided the Russians had gone far enough and moved their police cars to block the road. 

    The Russian tanks ploughed through, pushing the cars aside with contemptuous ease

    As we continued north, we came across several checkpoints on the main road.  The soldiers seemed relaxed as they asked for identification and checked to see if we were carrying weapons.
     
    A quick flash of our press cards and we were on our way again.

    Frustrated

    At the edge of Gori, they blocked access to the town for all but a few. Ambulances and aid vehicles were allowed to pass, but a delegation from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) was turned away.

    We called our sources in the town. "There's lots of movement," we were told, "but it doesn't look as if they are leaving".

    Alexander Lomaia, the Georgian national security adviser, has been in Gori every day since the tanks rolled in. His frustration was obvious.

    "Last night the Russian general promised that they will start pulling out at 10 this morning. But I've just seen him again [and] he said that the pullout is not a major issue he is dealing [with], right now".

    From our position we could see soldiers, sitting on top of their tanks, lying back, enjoying the hot summer sun. This was an army in no rush to leave.
     
    They insist there are many security issues involved in their withdrawal. 

    It is clear the Russians will finish this operation according to their own timetable, not one imposed by outsiders.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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