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Forty-Nine civilians killed in villages near South Ossetian border

By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, September 15
49 Georgian civilians died in villages near South Ossetian border during the August conflict, says a report published by the Georgian Public Defenders Office on September 14. The report also points out that more than 1,200 houses have been destroyed.

The report summed up the results of monitoring of 31 Georgian-populated villages in the area south of the South Ossetian administrative border. Those territories are now occupied by Russian troops who entered them in August, during the Georgian-Ossetian conflict. “About two dozen of them [the dead civilians], including women, elderly people and disabled people (blind and deaf) were brutally killed,” says the report.

The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs published a statement on September 13 saying that violence and brutality against ethnic Georgians remaining in the conflict zone are still ongoing. “On 13 September 2008, before dawn, the separatists’ illegal armed formations burned to ashes the houses of local Georgians in the villages of Koshka and Dilegi. Moreover, the same morning the separatists took hostage six local Georgians, poured petrol on them and threatened to burn them if they didn’t leave the villages immediately. For the time being, the intimidated Georgian residents are leaving the villages,” says the statement.

The Ministry accused the Russian Government, which controls these territories, of “using ethnic cleansing” to “achieve its political goals.” The statement appealed for the international community to react and urge Russia “to cease such practices.”

The Georgian Government has addressed the International Court of Justice at the Hague, accusing the Russian Federation of ethnic cleansing during the military actions on Georgian territory. On September 8, Georgia presented the accusatory documents. Russia denied all the accusations, calling them “absurd.” “The fault for the tragic events lies with Tbilisi first of all. The actions of Russia were directed towards the protection of the civilian population and peacekeepers from acts of Georgian aggression,” said representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry Andrei Nesterenko on September 12, as quoted by Russian news agency Interfax. He also accused Georgia of the falsification of “some facts and evidence” presented to the court.

“We have requested that the court refuses to consider the allegations of Georgia. A decision will be made during the next few weeks,” said Nesterenko.

According to the latest official data 295 Georgians were killed during the conflict in the Georgian breakaway region, 109 of them civilians.