"We can get traffic moving across this in two weeks - if the Russians don't blow it up again," said Georgian railroad engineer Georgy Gurgiashvidze, dpa reported.
"But if they do blow it up a second time, maybe at least they'll admit they did it," he told a Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa reporter on Wednesday, as he gestured at the twisted remains of one of Georgia's most critical rail links lying in a gully next to the sluggish Kvari River.
The Kvari River railroad bridge near the central Georgian village Grakali connects the capital Tbilisi with points westward, that is, it did until the Russian army demolition experts arrived.
"The Russian soldiers showed up on Saturday afternoon, and they waited until a passenger train had just passed," Gurgiashvidze recalled. "They were using (the Soviet-era explosive) trotyl, and as you can see they did a very thorough job."
Kremlin spokesmen have repeatedly denied their forces conducted any major attacks against Georgian civilian infrastructure during the five-day Ossetia war, but have been more murky on the subject of civilian infrastructure with potential military use.
Grakali villagers made clear a group of some thirty Russians wired and dropped the bridge, and even said the soldiers have remained in the vicinity.
"The Russian (soldiers) come down to the water every night, they set up search lights and they bathe," said a railway worker identifying himself as Gurami. "We talk with them and they joke that they knocked down the bridge so they could wash without people in trains seeing them naked."
Whatever the reason, the Russian army's plan to reduce a span of the Kvari River bridge has brought repercussions far beyond the concrete and steel rubble lying in soft river bank mud and grass normally used by Grakali villagers for grazing by their cows and donkeys.
Surrounded by mountains and under a more or less permanent blockade by its traditional trading partner Russia, even before the Ossetia War Georgia depended on the Kvari River bridge. It is the only rail link between the capital Tbilisi and the Georgian interior, and the Black Sea ports Batumi and Poti, and the rest of the world.
The Russians have been thorough. Russian tanks and soldiers on Wednesday were visible on mountain ridges above observing Georgian work crews shift earth and lay down bypass rails. Russian infantry at two points down the line, one in the Tbilisi direction and the second toward Poti, had piled concrete slabs directly on the line.
Georgian railroad personnel will be fired upon if they attempt to remove the Russian barriers, Russian soldiers said.
"No trains are going either way, Tbilisi is pretty much cut off," said Guram Guriashvili, a Georgian parliament member on the scene supervising the bridge repair effort. "There is practically no way to move freight between the coast and our capital."
Russian army road checkpoints or actual occupation by troops has likewise rendered key Georgian road hubs, particularly the cities Gori and Senaki, unusable to lorry traffic. As per orders of the Russian general staff, civilian vehicles are allowed through, but neither official Georgian traffic nor most goods.
With Georgia's main port Poti occupied by Russian troops (who on Tuesday sank two captured Georgian warships as they were unable to sail them back to Russian waters), freight traffic of almost any kind has dried up in Georgia.
Lorries have disappeared from the roads, and the most bothersome visitor to a Russian checkpoint these days, the Russian soldiers charged to inspect vehicles say, is a Georgian with a carload of tomatoes or bottled water attempting to shift goods.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has estimated the cost of the near-total halt of inter-city trade imposed by the Russian army on his country as "in the billions of dollars," and "damaging beyond calculation."
But at the Kvari River bridge, where Georgian railroad workers were busy positioning rails and inspecting sleepers prior to an attempt to put into use an abandoned Soviet era bridge over the waterway, the problem was simpler.
"If we aren't interfered with, we can get this bit of the rail line going, you can see how the boys are working" Gurgiashvidze said. "But until the Russians leave, our economy is going to stay in the 18th century."