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Page last updated at 10:43 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 11:43 UK

Voices from the Caucasus conflict

Burned out tank
Tskhinvali's scarred streets showed the extent of the fighting
BBC Russian Service correspondents Yuri Maloveryan and Ilya Abishev have been speaking to ordinary people in South Ossetia and Georgia about their experiences of the conflict that has plagued their region in recent days.

Here, they recount how the war began for them and describe how they have suffered and what they witnessed.

REVMIRA ALBOROVA, TSKHINVALI, SOUTH OSSETIA

On 7 August [the first day of the conflict] I finished my shift at the hospital where I work and we left medications for our patients for the weekend. In the evening the situation escalated.

The next morning I managed to send my niece off. As for myself, I hid in the cellar of my house, which is in the very centre, some 100m from the Government Hall.

The shooting was terrible. We were under constant fire, from all weapons - from planes, from rocket launchers, from mortars, self-propelled artillery pieces and howitzers.
When tanks broke into the city, they also opened fire, there was such roaring everywhere that it was impossible even to look out of the cellar. We had to make a makeshift toilet in the cellar.

Georgians followed and killed those who tried to get out of the surrounded city. They smashed cars carrying children with tanks
Revmira Alborova
After Georgians took over Zarskaya Road, the city was blockaded. We were not given the chance to exit Tskhinvali. Many civilians remained in the city, only children and their parents were evacuated, and mostly they were mothers with children aged under seven.

Georgians followed and killed those who tried to get out of the surrounded city. They smashed cars carrying children with tanks.

I am now standing by a crater from a tank shell. Here, a father tried to get his family out - his 15-year-old daughter, 16-year-old son, his wife and a family relation who was with her two children, the younger one was just eight months old.

Their car came under fire when leaving the city by a Georgian tank. The shell burst right under the wheels of the car.

Local boys ran over to it and started pulling people out of the car. They managed to save the women and the younger children, but the others died, because the tank drove over to the car, Georgian soldiers climbed out of it and shot into the car.

Those boys had to hold the mother back to prevent her from running to the car in which her family was burning alive.

DODO ABRAMISHVILI, VARIANI, GEORGIA

Dodo Abramishvili
My son, 21, was doing military service in Vaziani, near Tbilisi.

On 6 August, when the conflict escalated, he was transferred to Tskhinvali.

I do not know what has happened to him since. He is not on the list of the dead, nor on the list of the living.

Before 6 August we lived our normal lives, we had not heard of anything particularly worrying. In Nikozi, not far from Tskhinvali, there were Russian peacekeepers, then Georgian soldiers appeared there, but there were no soldiers in Variani.

On 8 and 9 August the village was bombed. I saw with my own eyes two people, a father and a son, killed by a bomb. On 10 August Russian and Ossetian troops came into the village and started stealing, killing, and burning houses.

We decided to escape through the forests to Gori. There were about 10 of us. As we ran, they - Russians, Cossaks, Ossetians - shot at us. Two of our group were wounded, but they did not die, they just lost a lot of blood. They are now in Tbilisi in hospital.

When we arrived in Gori, there were also houses on fire there. Then we reached the motorway - there was just one bus, full of refugees, which picked us up and took us to Tbilisi. I spent a night with my sister-in-law, and then I moved to a refugee centre in Tbilisi.

There were more than 500 families in Variani. I do not know where they are now, but they must have been given shelter somewhere in Tbilisi.

TAMARA SHAVLOKOVA, TSKHINVALI, SOUTH OSSETIA

It was real hell. Our district was under intense fire, it was terrible. I cannot describe it in words. Georgian troops used all kinds of weapons. There were 45 flats in our block. Some children and old people had left, when the authorities evacuated it. Those who had stayed went down to the basements.

There were children with us, a six-year-old girl, another girl aged about 15 and a boy aged about 16. On 8 August, tanks came from the western side and started firing straight at our district. Our block of flats was hit, the shell burst on the third floor. An 80-year-old man was killed there.

A fire started in the block of flats. Five flats and the roof were destroyed. Firemen came despite the constant shelling and managed to put it out.

Georgians burst into the city as if it were playtime, they drove along the streets, shot at houses and people who were running away. They were firing in all directions. Women, children and old people who were trying to get out were killed.

On 10 August we buried our neighbour. We gathered up all that remained of him, ashes, bones, wrapped it all in plastic, put it in a shopping bag and buried it in our yard.

DZHEMALI KHADURI, SATSKHENETI, GEORGIA

Dzhemali Khaduri (R) with his wife
Before 6 August there was war in the woods, between Russians, Ossetians and Georgians. In the forest about 3km from my house we could hear the shooting, from machine-guns and other weapons.

We thought this would be the end of it, but things got worse. On 8 and 9 August there were airstrikes on our village. Prior to that we were not bombed. And then they came into our village.

My wife had left on 7 August. All women left by bus on 7 and 8 August.

We saw the Ossetians come in, start shooting and setting houses on fire
Dzhemali Khaduri
We were hiding in the forest about a kilometre from the village, across the river. There is a small hydro-electric power station there and we hid behind it in the forest. There we saw everything.

We saw the Ossetians come in, start shooting and setting houses on fire. We saw smoke, heard screaming - old men and women who had remained in the village.

They were screaming: "Please, don't! Why are you doing this?" And we were afraid and did not leave the forest.

We know that it was Ossetians who set our houses on fire.

We even know two of them personally, two brothers. They had a gang, 10-12 people, maybe more. There were no Russians there.

The Ossetians said: "Leave, this is our land." They took our cows. They had a truck and they took all valuables out of the houses and loaded them onto the truck.

I was there until 12 August, when I left through the forest. All of us men who were there left. We left at night, as we were afraid that if we left during the day we would be killed.

On the second day we arrived in [the Georgian village of] Karaleti.

When we left Satskheneti, about a dozen people still remained in the village. I heard that the Red Cross had evacuated everyone.





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