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Lee Allen e-mail from Georgia

This is an e-mail sent by Lee Allen about the fighting in Georgia on Monday morning:

"This morning, we were shaken from our beds at 4:40 a.m. by the sound of two big explosions, the result of more bombs. As I write this, Russian planes are continuing to circle the country, dropping bombs on targets in all regions. I hear several flying near Tbilisi now. Fighting continues in the conflict zone of South Ossetia, but the majority of damage is now coming from the bombing raids outside the conflict zone. A second front has opened near the other Russian-backed breakaway region, Abkhazia. The Black Sea Fleet is forming a blockade. All Georgian reserve troops have been sent back home, and the president has been pleading for a cease fire, but the Russians aren't finished yet.

"My wife's family managed to escape Gori and have taken refuge here at my flat, along with some of our neighbors from there. Tens of thousands of people have fled Gori by whatever means available: car, taxi, donkey, even by foot. Most people fear that Gori will be taken by Russian forces. If this happens, the country will be cut in half. I believe Zugdidi, in the west of the country, will also be taken. Russia set a brilliant trap and are launching a well-planned invasion. I fear that their goal is total occupation of the country. One explanation, in my opinion, is that this is Russia's revenge for allowing Kosovo to become independent.

"On a lighter note, I spent several hours yesterday traveling around Tbilisi, in search of anyone who could change money. All of my savings is in the local currency, the lari, and I wanted to convert it all as quickly as possible to Euros or U.S. dollars. Everywhere I went, I was given the same response: 'We have no Euros or dollars to sell'. The few cooperative money changers I managed to find on the outskirts of the city exchanged my money at a substantially higher-than-posted rate. Nevertheless, if this war continues and the country slides further into chaos, I'm sure the value of the lari will plummet.

"There's one more point I thought I'd mention. Between local news coverage of the war, the main Georgian channels are broadcasting numerous dubbed American films in which the plot involves war with the Russians: 'Red Dawn,' 'Hunt for Red October,' 'Top Gun,' etc. It's as if the real images of war aren't enough."

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