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Page last updated at 17:52 GMT, Thursday, 14 August 2008 18:52 UK

Eyewitness: 'Shrapnel like razor blades'

Dr Vasily Gorgadze, 52, worked as a surgeon in one of the hospitals in Gori during the height of the fighting between Georgian and Russian/South Ossetian forces.

A Georgian civilian lies in a hospital in Gori
Dr Gorgadze says he treated a stream of wounded people in Gori
He describes what he and others have been through, and makes clear who he blames for the conflict.

"It was terrible. We had to work in the hospital under fire," he says.

"Tskhinvali and Gori are not far away from each other and we could hear the sound of shelling. But when the air bombardment started then it got really terrible.

"The wounded - both local people and soldiers - were taken to our hospital in truckloads. We could barely cope. There were loads of local people - both dead and injured.

There was no end to Russia's provocation, all year round. So Georgia had no choice but to defend itself

"Mostly they had shrapnel wounds. There were also bullet wounds, though not so many.

"I'm not sure what kind of bombs were used but the shrapnel was as sharp as razor blades. Some shrapnel pieces were really huge - I saw them penetrating concrete foundations."

Dr Gorgadze worked in Gori until he and his wife were evacuated on Monday morning. Since then, they have been living with relatives in a village near the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.

"We worked in Gori treating the wounded, but then an alarm sounded and we were urgently evacuated from the city," he said.

He said even though Russia and Georgia had agreed to withdraw troops, Gori was still under Russian control on Thursday.

Russian military vehicle in Gori, 14/08/08
Russian forces were still in control of Gori on Thursday

"I'm in constant contact with my doctor colleagues in Gori," he said.

The Russians had pulled out on Thursday morning and by noon Georgian police had moved back in.

"But an hour later Russian troops had returned and kicked out the Georgian police. And now they are in full control of Gori," he said.

Some Georgians have said Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili was asking for trouble when he launched an assault on South Ossetia, which was allied to Moscow.

But not Dr Gorgadze.

"I blame the Russians," he says, "because it was them who provoked the whole thing. They found some South Ossetians and some Abkhazians who have agreed to play their game.

"The Russians still cannot get used to the idea that Georgia is an independent state. They still want to use us as their slaves," he says.

A woman looks at ruined buildings in Tskhinvali
Dr Gorgadze denies Georgia is responsible for destroying Tskhinvali

Asked about the destruction of the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali, which many Ossetians have blamed firmly on Georgia's bombardment, he is adamant.

"It's not true that the Georgians have destroyed Tskhinvali. Russian troops were stationed in Tskhinvali and from their base in the city have provoked the Georgian side [over a long period]. I work in Gori and there was hardly a day when there wasn't any shelling - virtually every day we had wounded delivered to our hospital - there was no end to Russia's provocation, all year round. So Georgia had no choice but to defend itself."

However he insists that, even now, there is "practically no national animosity" between Georgians, on one hand, and Ossetians and Abkhazians on the other.

"I'm absolutely convinced that we can live together. If the Russians don't provoke the situation, Georgians, Ossetians and Abkhazians could live a normal life together," he says.




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