Georgia still bears the scars of its brief war with Russia. In Gori, the damage to buildings testifies to the bombings and combat. Those that fled the city during the war have begun to come back. It is estimated that 130,000 people were displaced inside Georgia during the conflict. According to the UN High Commission for Refuges, a further 50,000 will not be able to return to their homes. Those that have returned are fearful and feel abandoned.
“It’s dangerous of course, if the Ossetian militia come through, what can we do about it ?’‘ We can’t do anything,’‘ said Georgian resident Tristan Kasabishvili.
‘‘Has anyone come in the past week?’‘ asks the reporter.
‘‘No no-one has been here this week,’‘ said Kasabishvili.
Entire villages raised and burnt to the ground, Georgie talks of ethnic cleansing and being cut off from justice. Reed Brody, from Human Rights Watch said:
“It’s quite clear if you look at which houses were destroyed, which villages were destroyed, there was ethnic targeting here, that it was ethnic Georgians who were targeted and whose houses were burned down,” he said.
And what of those on the Ossetian side? Russia claims nearly 2000 civilians were killed, a figure contested by Georgia. One thing is clear, the fear and destruction for Ossetians is just as real.
South Ossetian resident Zalina Kokieva said: “When we heard the Georgians arriving, the only thing I thought was how to die as fast as possible without suffering a lot,’‘ she said.
South Ossetian resident Dimitri Chorebov said: “The European Union is shameful. They speak about unity with Georgia. How can they force me to live with my enemies who want to kill me?” he said.
During the war an estimated 34,000 Ossetians left the region and moved to Russia. Some 6,500 are yet to return. One way or the other, for both Georgians and Ossetians, future co-habitation may prove difficult.