29 October 2008, 12:24

Tatiana Kasatkina: Georgian population leaves South-Ossetian Akhalgori District

Tatiana Kasatkina, Executive Director of the HRC "Memorial", told at the press conference yesterday, on October 28, about the situation in the Akhalgori District of South Ossetia, which was visited by human rights activists on October 21. As she said, Georgian villages are closed there, and the remaining Georgians are persuaded into Russian citizenship.

The human rights defender has reminded that the District was inhabited by 80 percent of Georgian and 20 percent of Ossetians. Many families are mixed ones. The Akhalgori District is separated from South Ossetia by a mountain ridge. Now, the District is occupied by Russian troops and announced to be part of South Ossetia.

"Over two thousand Georgians have left Akhalgori for Georgia. The empty houses are plundered by Russian militaries; sometimes they even settle down in them," said Ms Kasatkina. Local residents think that they are under occupation regime. They are scared by foreign militaries deployed here and the posts set up on the road leading to Georgia. Residents are afraid that this road will be blocked, and they will be forced into Russian citizenship. Now, representatives of the Ossetian administration are urging the Georgians living in Akhalgori to do so. They are registering young men, and residents link it with possible recruiting into the Army of South Ossetia.

Construction of the highway, which will link Akhalgori with Tskhinvali, started in spring and will be soon finished, as Colonel Tarasov, A. V., Military Commander of Russian Troops in South Ossetia, told the human rights activists; he promised that the road to Georgia would not be blocked. According to Tarasov, he had even removed several posts from this road.

Tatiana Kasatkina has confirmed to the "Caucasian Knot" correspondent the fact of closing schools in the Akhalgori District. "Schools are really closed, because there are no children, they just have no one to teach" she said and added that children's homes are also half-empty.

Varvara Pakhomenko, human rights activist from the "Demos" Centre, has added that de-mining works are currently underway around schools in the Gori District. "There are still mines planted around schools, therefore, it's unreasonable for children to go there," she said. Human rights activists have added that in some Georgian enclave villages of the Akhalgori and Gori Districts schools were opened some 7-10 days ago.

They have noted that fact that Georgian population come back home: while in early October there were some 60,000 refugees in total, now 35,000 left. On October 15, the last tent camp located in Gori, Georgia, was closed. Temporary Accommodation Centres (TACs) are still open in Tbilisi, Gori and some other cities.

Author: Anastasia Kirilenko, CK correspondent;

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