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From the Front: Russians leaving only destruction behind in Georgia

Latest e-mail communique from students in Tbilisi

Posted: August 18, 2008 9:37 p.m.
Updated: October 20, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Natalie Mchedlishvili and COC instuctor Kevin Anthony are shown in this photo from Anthony's visit to the Republic of Georgia in May.

Russian troops were scheduled to pull out of the Republic of Georgia Monday, but according to an e-mail from former College of the Canyons student and Georgia resident Natalie Mchedlishvili, they didn't appear to be leaving much behind.

"We have got some video footage where the Russian soldiers are stealing stuff from houses and the military barracks," Mchedlishvili wrote in an e-mail Monday to her friend, COC instructor Kevin Anthony.

"You will laugh out loud when I tell you the list of the stolen things: lavatory pans, soap, clothes, shoes, even the pipes for the plumbing."

Mchedlishvili said she had no idea why the Russian soldiers would take such "stupid" things, but she suspects that they don't have such nice things where they come from.

"To be honest, I felt very sorry for them because they are so poor, living in such a federation, and they envy our Georgian soldiers," she wrote.

What the Russians are leaving behind, according to Mchedlishvili, is "ruined and destroyed houses and buildings; bombed villages and provinces; killed innocent, peaceful populations; military forces; raped women; refugees living in school buildings; and pregnant women sleeping on desks.

"This is the current portrait of the democratic Republic of Georgia," she wrote.

For Anthony, who has been in close contact with Mchedlishvili and other Georgian students he met when presenting a workshop at Tbilisi Ilia Chavchavadze State University last May, the e-mails he receives are shocking.

"To me, it just shocks the hell out of me to get these e-mails," Anthony said. "You want to help, but you don't know what's going on, or what to do. I feel very helpless - I don't know what the future is going to bring."

Anthony, chair of hotel management at COC, is concerned about the Georgian economy, which was on the verge of booming when he visited in May.

"They had some very nice development going on, and some investors were coming in." Anthony said.

"This will set them back, but I am confident that they will recover. It's a very vibrant little country."

Mchedlishvili confirmed in her e-mail to Anthony that the Georgian economy is suffering.

"The fact is that our economy broke down. Now we will have to start a new life again the second time, like we did after the war in Abkhazia," she wrote.

As of Monday morning, Mchedlishvili did not see any evidence that the Russians were leaving the key Georgian city of Gori - where Russian dictator Josef Stalin was born - despite an agreement reached by the two nations that Russia would pull out of all Georgian regions except the two provinces in dispute.

The Associated Press confirmed Monday that in the region of Gori, "there were no signs of a Russian pullback."

Despite the uncertainty as to whether Russia would fulfill its side of the cease-fire agreement, Mchedlishvili held out hope that the Russians "really are going to leave us alone."

Anthony also hopes that is the case.

"I think that - after they've taken everything they want out of there - yes, they will pull out," Anthony said. "But I think the Russians have paid a huge price with their image around the world."


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