Nata Imedaishvili reports on Russia's continued withdrawal from their former base in Batumi, Georgia. As of today, only two families and five soldiers remain. Lost in all the hype and political spin of the last week is the fact that Russia remains committed to closing military base #12.
A merchant who identified himself only as "Mr. Karlo" runs a small kiosk located just 10 meters from the entrance to base No. 12. The location places him in a unique position to observe the daily goings-on at the imposing structure.
"It is no longer a base. Only several soldiers are left, who will stay only until the territory is handed over. Several officers with families," Karlo said. "They were supposed to empty the territory, and move to Khelvachauri by the end of September. But they are still here."
That is expected to change under the terms of the new deal, which was worked out by Russian and Georgian negotiators in Sochi in late March and ratified by the Russian State Duma on October 6. The agreement sets the terms of operation of Russian military bases and facilities in Russia, and the transit of Russian armaments across Georgian soil.
It dictates that Russian soldiers serving at base No. 12 evacuate the base and move to another Russian facility in nearby Khelvachauri before eventually being relocated to a base in Gyumri, Armenia.
Karlo says that despite the recent tension between Georgia and Russia, the local population has good relations with the soldiers who serve in Batumi.
"We help them, give them things that they pay for in installments," Karlo said. "We have good relations, but the soldiers are somewhat... when they first arrived here, they would not receive salaries for the whole year, and were dependent on us for bread and other things. They would come and ask me for a shot of vodka -- 'Give me 100 grams of vodka, uncle Karlo.' This is how they were. Now they have cars and money, and no longer communicate with us. However, nobody is going to insult them in any way. And they also do not behave in a provocative manner."