Sunday, August 17, 2008

It is too Quiet - Igoeti Georgia

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

IGOETI, Georgia (AP) - Russian soldiers dug foxholes Saturday on a hillside near the capital of war-battered Georgia as a cease-fire went into effect, setting the stage for a Russian troop withdrawal after more than a week of fighting.

The Russian seizure of territory, including the strategic city of Gori about 20 miles from Igoeti, raised fears that Russia was aiming for a permanent occupation of the country that once was part of its empire.

As both sides waited for the truce to come into effect, Russian troops' intentions were hard to read.

The shallow foxholes being gouged out of the earth at Igoeti by a small contingent of Russian soldiers on Saturday could indicate intentions to stay awhile. They could be intended as defensive positions for the Russians to guard their comrades as they withdraw

If you Google "IGOETI" thousands of hits will come up, all reflecting one thing, as the Associated Press Report above indicates the Russians have control of this vital city or town, every newspaper in the world will have a story almost indentical, and around the globe the world holds it breath fearing for the fate of "Igoetians".

Prior to the war, here. Googling "Igoeti" would of revealed a couple of hits relating to vineyards in the area.

We drove up to Igoeti yesterday, Saturday and filmed the Russian Tanks, APC's and Soldiers digging foxholes overlooking the road. At the frontline yesterday it was a matter of Georgian troops and Russian troops literally 50 yards apart, sometimes soldiers would walk back and forwards crossing the line. No one caring or really bothered. Fighting is no longer a real factor here. Everyone knows who has won and that at any stage the Russians can move where and when they want.

We drove up today towards Igoeti, which is about half way between Tbilisi and Gori. The highway i virtually closed to all traffic and for the first time in this conflict we pasted with tape on our car the word "TV" on the windscreen, bonnet and rear window.

So that when we approach checkpoints the risks are reduced of being an unidentified vehicle.

Our main concern today was not the threat of coming into contact, but the real danger of being robbed and having our vehicle stolen at gunpoint by roaming militants, or as Cher might say "Gypsies Tramps and Thieves". In a new 4X4 Toyota, TV on the windscreen driving on a road with no law and no order we were an ATM on wheels to anyone with an AK47, of which there are no shortage of here.

The Russian have pulled back a few km's from Igoeti, and there is always the professional desire to check facts as true. But leaving the last Georgian Army checkpoint and heading towards Gori the silence in the car reflected that knowledge that it was a risk not worth taking. Around a corner and a Georgian Police car with a few people milling around gave a sense of safety so we pulled in to talk with the police, the trouble as Rez our driver explained that the police themselves cannot be trusted they can just easily tell you that all is ok on the road ahead, watch you drive off and call their friends to steal your car and everything in it.

It was the first time in the week plus that we have been here that our driver Rez has expressed any concern in regard to this and Steve and him talked in Russian for a while. Basically it could be done but the risk was just to high. So without saying anything to the police we turned back towards Tbilisi . We had not gone more than half a mile when we passed a Red Cross Aid convoy heading towards Gori, being a convoy we turned and started to follow them past the police we had just left.

One minute past the Police we came upon another checkpoint manned by uniforms that made no sense and this was a major worry. It took two seconds for us to make a fast very fast U turn and head back.

We try everyday to cover the war and tell a story, the last thing we want to do is become the story ourselves.

It was a day as they say that everyone's sixth sense, became a little seventh. Sometimes the scariest sound is the sound of silence at a checkpoint.


Anonymous said...

Gypsies, Tramps and Theives for sure! If people only knew everything you go through to get a story....well, you'd be getting paid as much as a basketball players. Amazing story Mal and a side of your work we appreciate hearing about. Could cut the tension there! Thanks for the photo too. Felt like we were there...could see the cogs turning in Harrigan's head. If you guys don't get some awards for this reporting then there is no justice....but then justice is sparse these days...isn't it. You getting the truth out is as good as it gets. Sincere thanks to you, Harrigan and crew. You are no regular news are the greatest! Prayers...

21stCenturyMom said...

Bravo for your 7th sense - common sense. As I said, luck favors the prepared - and the sensible.

Anonymous said...

Not to disagree but I think it goes way beyond being prepared and common sense. You guys are prepared, experienced and have plenty of common sense okay. But you have more...something that most people don't have. You see things as they are and not as you wish they were. You aren't a cliche. We can't sit here never seeing or doing what you see and do and smuggly comment as if we knew and could judge you and even understand you. You have something that we don't, that most don't ...not even most reporters. Maybe it is a gift...all I can do is stand in awe and appreciation of you. Thanks for being different.