Georgians fleeing border town
r.amirejibi-mullen at qmul.ac.uk
Mon Nov 10 20:48:40 UTC 2008
PEREVI, Georgia: Dozens of Georgians crowded onto a rickety bus
Monday, clambering over one another to flee this remote mountain
village, which has become a flash point of mounting tensions on the
boundary of South Ossetia.
They left behind a nearly deserted village, whose remaining residents
are afraid to come out onto the streets for fear of attracting the
attention of Ossetian soldiers patrolling the area. Russian troops
continued to withdraw from the main checkpoint at the western edge of
Perevi, leaving Ossetians in charge of a tense population.
Darejan Bakradze, 50, removed most of her valuables from Perevi on
Monday morning, but returned in the afternoon to look after her
mother-in-law. Passing the checkpoint, she grew pale and shaky at the
sight of Ossetian soldiers.
"I want the Russians to come back," Bakradadze said. "They were
European monitors urged both sides to remain calm on a day marked by
tension along the boundary with South Ossetia. Two Georgian policemen
were killed outside the village of Dvani when a remote-controlled mine
exploded near their car, according to Shota Utiashvili, a spokesman
for the Georgian Interior Ministry. When a patrol arrived to
investigate, a second mine exploded, wounding three more policemen, he
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Georgians fleeing border town
Ambassador Hansjörg Haber, head of the EU monitoring mission, called
the attack "an unacceptable breach of the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement."
He was referring to the peace deal brokered by the French president,
Nicolas Sarkozy, and endorsed Sept. 8 by the Russian president, Dmitri
Medvedev, after the brief war between Georgia and Russia over the
breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
"Today's attack risks escalating the still-tense situation along the
administrative boundary lines," Haber said Monday. "We repeat our call
on all sides to prevent further provocations."
The South Ossetian interior minister, Valeri Valiyev, said his forces
were not involved. "It is Georgian territory," he said. "What happens
there has nothing to do with us."
Though no violence has occurred in Perevi, home to about 1,000 ethnic
Georgians, it was the focus of angry rhetoric Monday from Tbilisi and
Tskhinvali, the separatist capital. Both sides claim it is on their
territory. The European Union said in a statement Saturday that it is
"clearly" on the Georgian side of the line.
Ibragim Gaseyev, the South Ossetian deputy minister of defense, said
the village has belonged to South Ossetia "for countless centuries,"
and promised to "give an adequate answer to any provocative act by the
Georgian side on the territory of our republic."
President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia said his country would
protect the village.
"We will do everything not to yield to the occupants' provocations,"
Saakashvili said Monday. "We must understand that Georgia began a hard
and long fight for the liberation of its lands. And in this fight we
must act together with our partners."
Irina Gagloyeva, a spokesman for the South Ossetian government, said
that Perevi was not controlled by Tskhinvali before the war, but that
it had become necessary to protect it because Georgians "are trying to
create tension here." She said its residents were friendly to South
Ossetia, and "have more than once applied for citizenship" in the
But Georgians in Perevi said they were frightened. The school has shut
down, and most of the women and children have left. Alik Dzhokhadze,
24, said he and his friends were toasting the withdrawal of Russians
when Ossetian soldiers entered the village, shooting in the air.
Dzhokhadze said he had been hiding in his house for two days.
Lomauridze Zina, 48, had watched many of her neighbors leave the
village and gathered for comfort with several families who remain. She
said she did not want to leave for fear that her house would be robbed.
Violence has been reported from both sides in recent days. Last
Thursday, the South Ossetian authorities reported that a villager,
Oleg Gigolayev, was fatally shot by a sniper from the Georgian side of
the line. The Georgian authorities denied any involvement.
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