Following an agreement in May, Russia has finally begun withdrawing from its Georgian base at Batumi. The first convoy of troops and equipment left on Saturday. Befitting any Russian military action, all has not gone smoothly, however.
Firstly (and it must be noted, this is more likely the fault of the Georgians than the Russians), visa regulations meant a one day delay:
Russian officials claimed Georgia had failed to issue licences for the vehicles and re-entry visas for drivers escorting the column.
And then, mere moments after leaving the base complex, the convoy was forced to halt in order to repair one of its vehicles:
The column stopped 250 meters after since one of the cars needed to be repaired urgently. After a few hours of the repairs, the vehicles started crawling again because the hardware that was being pulled out was heavily depreciated.
Cock-ups aside, it’s good to see that the Russian exit was not accompanied by aggressive crowds. Instead flowers were thrown and champagne was drunk by local residents, many of whom were employed by the base, and will probably have mixed feelings about their departure, :
Georgian TV showed local people saying goodbye to the departing vehicles.
"We promised that when they left we would bid them farewell and we wish them a good trip," Ketevan Antidze told Imedi TV.
Another bystander, Giorgi Charkviani, said it was a friendly farewell.
"We welcome their decision to leave so we are extending the hand of friendship – they are our friends," he said.
A peaceful sendoff like this will certainly help when it comes to mending the fractured relationship between the two countries in the future and they hopefully move towards a more-co-operative future. It also gives the Russian media no ammunition against Georgia to delay the withdrawal – imagine the response if bricks had been thrown at the departing troops, rather than flowers.