“Confused Picture Of Ethnic Cleansing, Atrocities Emerges In Georgia”




Situation Inside Ossetia Unknown

The situation inside South Ossetia is the hardest of all to independently assess.

Human Rights Watch told RFE/RL on August 17 that both sides in the conflict have taken soldiers and civilians as prisoners of war. But in the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, Georgian civilians have been used as forced labor to clean up war damage in the city.

“We saw those people working in the city, cleaning up debris after the bombings. We were told by representatives of the authorities, unofficially, that those people were indeed detained and that they were hauling debris in the city voluntarily,” Anna Neistat of Human Rights Watch told RFE/RL’s Georgian Service.

“Understandably, we were not able to speak to any of those people, to our regret,” Neistat said. “But I think it is very important today to clarify their status, whether they are detained [civilians] or prisoners of war.”

Russian authorities gave international reporters a bus tour of the region over the weekend.

“The New York Times” has said the reporters were denied access to Georgian villages on the way to Tskhinvali. But out the bus windows, they were able to see that “in some villages as many as 90 percent of the homes looked ruined.”

In Tskhinvali, the reporters also saw heavy damage. “The New York Times” said the separatist Foreign Ministry building “is a charred hulk” and “a tank gun’s barrel has crashed through the entrance to the university.”

Georgian troops shelled the city on August 7 in a bid to retake control of the breakaway region. Street-to-street fighting with Russian tanks then gutted more of the city before the Russian Army swept on into Georgia proper.

Even as Moscow has promised to begin withdrawing soldiers from Georgia, it remains unclear how long the withdrawal might take. It is equally unclear when a humanitarian corridor might be opened to South Ossetia.

Pope Benedict XVI called on August 17 for the opening of such a corridor, which would allow Georgian forces to recover dead and wounded and international observers to assess the fate of Georgian villages in the area. There has been no immediate response to the call.

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One Response to ““Confused Picture Of Ethnic Cleansing, Atrocities Emerges In Georgia””

  1. rosettasister Says:

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