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Georgia on our minds.

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Eddie Mair | 10:56 UK time, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Six months after the war in Georgia, the country is struggling to cope with the aftermath - and the impact of the global economic downturn. There's also political instability, with the country's usually fractious opposition uniting to call on President Saakashvili to resign and hold fresh elections. PM's Ray Furlong has been granted exclusive access to accompany the President on a tour of the country, and sends these words and pictures to go with tonight's report.









"The picture was on the wall just outside my hotel room and was my little welcome to Georgia. Later in the week, I got to meet the current top-dog President Saakashvili, who took me on a whirlwind tour of Georgia - first in the presidential jet, then by helicopter .

I got to spend more or less the whole day with him, including lunch when sadly photos weren't allowed (you should have seen the feast - huge even by Georgian standards), so there was time to ask him everything. He was quite candid - admitting that we were visiting good examples of investment etc but that Georgia is really 'feeling the heat,' as he put it, due to the impact of first the war and second the global economic crisis.

The pix of him getting a warm welcome are from near the town of Zugdidi, in a part of Abkhazia which fell to the Russians during the war but which they later withdrew from. It's now the only part of Abkhazia under Georgian control.

There are also some pix of where the refugees I met in Tbilisi live (a freezing squat without power). Some of the people living here have been refugees for 16 years, since the conflicts when Abkhazia and South Ossetia first broke away. One family had hooked up electricity from a neighbouring building, but the only heat came from a small electric ring they were boiling spuds on. And it was very cold. I got the people themselves on camera for a TV piece but I rather annoyingly forgot to do any stills...

Also some shots of a village near the South Ossetian border and EU monitors meeting Georgian front-line guards. In most of the villages the people were just standing around doing nothing - the harvest was mostly lost as a result of the war and they too are feeling the pinch. Add in the risk of kidnapping from South Ossetian militia and you can see their lives are pretty miserable this winter."


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