South Ossetian police tell Georgians to take a Russian passport, or leave their homes
The soft-backed school exercise book in which he jotted has become a weapon in Russia's war in Georgia. In Akhalgori, which Russia troops seized on Tuesday as part of an extended buffer zone around South Ossetia, it is a vital tool in a campaign to force ethnic Georgians to accept Russian passports.
Akhalgori's residents must register at paramilitary checkpoints, giving details that are passed on to the town police station. At a compulsory interview a new Russian appointed chief of police gives people a stark and simple choice: take a Russian passport, or leave the town.
Passports are a vital plank in Russia's strategy of securing a toehold in democratic Georgia. By issuing citizenship to South Ossetians, Russia gained a pretext to invade in early August, claiming to be defending its own from Georgian attacks.
Since signing a ceasefire agreement with Georgia two weeks ago, the Russian military and its local allies have carved a substantial buffer zone around the tiny enclave. To consolidate its latest conquests, Moscow has shipped in what Georgian officials describe as "industrial batches" of passports.
"The Russians are telling everyone in the town they must take a Russian passport," said Akhalgori shopowner Guram Chkhvidze. "One came to me and explained that if I did not take it, my safety could not be certain. I was scared, so I am leaving."