Stalin statue removed in Georgian town of Gori, his home town.
Photo © Reuters
In order to analize ongoing events on Georgian teritory it’s very important to listen to refugees who went through all these…. I am posting translation of refugees’ stories that was sent me by email…. At this moment all these people are resettled and living in Tbilisi….
Woman from Tskhinvali region
The Kazakhs torture everyone. My father did not leave together with us and who knows what’s happening to him now. We left by foot and slept overnight on the highway at the entrance of Tbilisi. We got a message that the whole village was burnt after we left. They are burning everything now, all Georgian villages.
Woman from Tskhinvali.
Five of our families left. Once I was an internally displaced. Don’t know where to go and what to do. I lived in the middle of Tskhinvali. Afterwards I moved to the village. When the villages got bombed we left. I buried two people and arrived here yesterday. I was carrying the corpse for three days trying to get it to the village to burry it. At the end I buried it on the road. He was my uncle. The shell cut off his leg and he died in the hospital from bleeding. Our neighbor’s 18 year old son was killed. They buried him but almost got killed there.
Tamara Tugieva, 70 years, Ethnical Ossetian
I am from Kekhvi village. I ran away from the village and came on foot to Gori. At the evening we were hiding at somebody’s place and at 7 p.m. guys rushed into the house screaming out “hurry up… hurry up…” so we ran away. I was so scared, I do not remember which day it was…
I could not take anything with me; I left even passports and everything. We were four women and two boys walking along the road. We were running through gardens, swamps, corn fields, trying to avoid major roads. I was wearing the same shoes as I am now. My feet were swollen and I took off my shoes…
When we reached Eredvi, they started bombardment again and two of our companion women from Kekhvi were killed. We could not even take care of their bodies as far as bombardment was so intensive (weeping). I felt bad and fell down into the mud, I could not get up and one Georgian policeman screamed out “wait for the woman, wait for her!” and they helped me to get out of the mud.
We were walking for the whole night and entered a Georgian village. One guy let us in to overnight. His family, wife and a chilled, was out and we spent the night there. He had no food so left the house, brought some potatoes and cooked for us. Then we reached Gori on foot. It was almost 10 a.m. I tried to find my relatives in Gori but in vain. Later on I left for Tbilisi.
My husband is Georgian and he is still in Kekhvi. I do not know anything about him, whether he is alive of dead. They say houses had been burned to ashes. I do not know if my house is burned down or not. When we left the village all houses were ok, so I can not say anything… my children are here…
Manana from Nikozi
I don’t know the condition of my house at present, my mother stayed there and I can’t get in touch with her, she does not have a telephone. We are five in the family and all of us left with the exception of her. My sister was hiding in the basement for two days.
We arrived to Gori which was also bombed and had to run away from there, Russian were bombing us. The bomb hit a house next to us and everyone left.
We were told that the invaders are robbing the houses and taking everything with them, and that they are Osetians. Our villages are adjacent to each other. I was working in Tskhinvali and we did not have a conflict, no one warned us that there would be a war.
Lali Jaoshvili, Kekhvi
I left three days ago. There was terrible shooting. We arrived to village Eredvi and it was also attacked. We were trying to get out of there with a car and save ourselves. Some were leaving by foot. We did not care about bringing anything with us from home. My husband remained in the forest. We all sobbed for him because thought that he died but apparently he hid and then fell into a ditch and survived.
Afterwards my mother-in-law died and my son received psychological shock from watching these horrible things. He hid in the forest and refused to come with us. That’s how he is now.
First there was shellfire and afterwards the tanks came in. All the villages and the houses are destroyed. One Russian told us to leave immediately because they would build a new town there.
Eka Metreveli, 35.
I fled from village Kemerti of Liakhvi gorge in the evening of August 9. Me and my spouse sent kids beforehand. And we left in the evening of 9th with our own car.
The village was bombed from jets and probably by tanks as well.
From the beginning, it all started when they shelled a car of the head of administration, guys blew up, my cousin was in that explosion. Then there were explosions every night and situation was tense.
Before we left, two shells hit our house. It destroyed a sleeping room and a bathroom. I do not know in what condition is the house now, but as I have heard, it is burned. We were not able to bring anything with us. Me and my spouse stayed in the basement of a relative and when we decided to leave, we did not even enter the house, we just ran away immediately.
We drove through the side road and exactly when we passed village Eredvi, they dropped a bomb and the explosion lifted a car nearby in the air. The houses were also destroyed then. What we need now is support of people and peace!
Pepela Nemsadze, Village of Zemo (upper) Khviti, Nikozi local council
I arrived on the 9th. I arrived because my son is a military officer, he was guarding the country, all lights were out, and I could not receive any information, I left the village in order to hear my son’s voice and learn what situation he was in, how he was. On a second day, when I was returning, I could not make my way to the village. My husband stayed in the village and he is still there. What situation he is in right now I don’t know- We called him, but they are so resistant, even if they were really suffering, he would still tell me he is fine more or less. My daughter in law called me, told me the house was destroyed, not completely demolished but destroyed. Neighbor has got a bunker and there are 12 people hiding in it…They tell me situation in a village is more or less safe now. They tell me that as we were leaving, the village was being attacked by air bombing, the jets were already flying over the village. The situation was bad, I was sick too, and I was almost pushed into the local bus, and I left the site just with my cloths on. I left because I wanted to learn what was going on, (because there was no electricity I could not get any information) but I was unable to go back…we left under fire, women and children escaped, they came here. I am so stubborn I would not leave, I would not leave my husband, he would not leave anyway, but the reason was…the night before, it hit the neighbors house…it is a destitute family ..her husband was killed earlier, during Zviad’s times, and now her son also died as I know. Her house was hit, on the other side, and my house is near it, and the pieces fell on our house as well. Window glasses shattered, my husband was standing close and he surprisingly survived, the wall saved him. The window frames fell off, big stones as well..this happened at night, my husband survived by a miracle. I was also close, standing near a door, he was outside, looking at what was happening. And he went back in, he was scared…it happened like this. They were probably located at the gardens in our village, and they were targeting us directly, a couple of them exploded at this place.. then I heard it exploding near and the house got demolished.. I was there…there were casualties.. two women died at this very incident. They were outside on a balcony, were hit by the shrapnel and both of them died.
I know that during these two nights Nuri and Avlevi –these two villages were bombed, loud explosions could be heard from there, and then our side responded as well, and may be because shooting was also coming from our side, when Georgians took their positions then they were targeting because of that. They were ready to kill us all and they (Georgians) had to do something ..they demolished two villages that night. Then they attacked us, nearby villages.
I was not going to leave for good. My motherland village is Akhaldaba, and I thought I would stay there, but people had also left this place. I though I would then go to Gori, but almost everyone has left Gori as well. And I was not able to leave the transport. It was a private bus, If I wanted to leave everyone had to step out to let me out. That’s how I happened to come to Tbilisi. I am able to reach them by phone once in a while and know that he is hiding in a bunker. Are they telling me the truth or something bad has happened upon me I don’t know. .. I have not talked to my husband directly, I only talk to the other person. I call during the day and may be they are not together during the day, or are they lying? I don’t know…
We have 7 members in our family. I have two sons who are married, and me and my husband….My son is an artillery officer. He was on a front line…we could not get any information about him, he is such a person himself that won’t tell me anything even if he is in trouble. He did not come home even for a minute because he wanted to be next to them (the solders) who are to him as his children….
It was an air bombing…They were shooting from some kind of equipment…When I was still there tanks were not coming and after that….Just yesterday were received information from Akhaldaba that Russian army is moving forward spending dawn the ammunition on the people…the forest was burning and fire was in the neighborhoods as well. This was according yesterday’s information and today I know nothing. We are very depressed, I can hardly think. especially when I think about the children, boys who grew up in my hands…I taught them in the school.. A lot of boys from us went on contracted military service. And there are many who are missing now, two, no, three I know for sure are dead. I don’t know about others, they are missing.. this is the situation…
Natia Metreveli, village Kheiti
When contacted, those who stay on the spot tell us that they are hiding in the forest. The tanks are raiding the city, the armed people go into the houses, they take everything that they like e.g. equipment, everything. They rob houses and then put them on fire. Hey burn absolutely everything. We left at 5 o’clock and we arrived in Tbilisi at 12:00. Just as we speak one of us heard that her father lost life-he was there.
We don’t know whether our neighbors are alive. We cannot contact them on phone.
The father and mother in law of my relative are there and we cannot get in touch with them either. They could not walk. We could not imagine the situation would escalate at this scale. They did not leave together with us.
Zamira Maisuradze, aged 67
Village Dzartsemi, Tskhinvali region
They bombed. We thought we would not survive. There were constant shootings. The windows and the doors were shot. The houses were bombed. But I personally have not seen casualties. The school was heavily bombed. The neighboring house was completely destroyed. Three-Four houses were destroyed. People were escaping by large cars from the village. They all called us to be quick. And we listened. I did not take anything with me. We left in whatever was on us. No body managed to take anything from home. Every member of my family left. Some of them had left earlier taking children out of the hot spot. Only I and my husband stayed home. My son, living in Tbilisi, was calling and asking me to leave; he said he would commit a suicide if we don’t leave.
We drove by a little car. We went to Tirdzini through Eredvi. We hardly managed to drive through the rock. We came across Chechens there. They were only two. The rest were hiding in the forest. They stopped us and asked whether we were armed. I replied “no, son, we have no weapon”. We spoke in Russian. Then I talked with them as I would speak with a child and they let us go. I asked if they were Russians. They denied and said they were Chechens. I could tell they were Chechens by their appearance too. They looked good. Only after my pleas they let us go. I begged, I cried and finally they let us go. Apparently they were good people. We met no one further. We left the territory peacefully. We were escaping together with large number of people and obviously Chechens were spread in the forest. We left early in the morning and presumably many of them were in the forest at that time and therefore we met only two. We are aware that there are more of Chechens there.
I do not know what happened to my house. There were constant shootings in the village, large scale shootings. We arrived in Tbilisi on Sunday, the same day. The overall population has left the village. The village is empty.
Tsitso Otinashvili, aged 64
We left our village Kekhvi, situated above Tskhinvali, on August 9 at 3 o’clock. We expected all to calm down. When we saw the airplanes we thought they were of Georgian side. There was no police, no statement or warning to leave the gorge. We stayed in the informational vacuum for 4 days. And then the bombings started, horrible continuous bombings on 8th and 9th , it was terrible. It was the Russian airplane with red stars. They shot not only from the airplanes but from all weapons at their disposal. The shootings were continuous, they shot non-stop. Then the situation deteriorated and grew into the demolition. The civilian buildings are destroyed. They mainly targeted the populated areas.
My son helped me walking, I had both legs operated. The bombs were chasing, we would lie on the ground and then with operated legs it was difficult for me to stand up. We managed to pass and in the area controlled by Georgians, we came across Chechens. They were Chechens. Chechens controlled our territories. They happily accompanied us with words “Thank God you left home”. They accompanied us and we left. We needed an asylum. No one responded.
We walked to the Eredvi forest and the bus arrived. Apparently the bus was sent by our government. Our Parliament took care of taking us from the region. My house is destroyed. I had the picture of Saakashvili, thus who would leave my home untouched. We left crawling from the cellar. We were yet home when the house was hit. I don’t know what happened afterwards. We walked for three hours. It was night when we arrived in Tbilisi.
Tsriakho was the place where ours stood. There were Chechens, they spoke on the different language. This language was nor Georgian, neither Ossetian, I can speak Ossetian. They did no harm to us but they took away everything costly. They took cars.
There are corps laying in the yards in my village and there is nobody to help. They bomb civilians. Our boys helped us and they just watched. When the airplane passed and did not bomb we presumed they were Georgians.
They robbed me in Tskhinvali. I had a house that they took. We moved to the village and were forced to leave again. My ancestors lived there. We leaved very well together, Georgians and Ossetians. There were mixed families. Why did they got us involved in the politics. Now I assert to all and demand my life back.
My son has marvelous friends, the Ossetians. My heart is with my son and his Ossetian friends. This tragedy is about politics, right? We have nothing to do with it. During the war we met one Ossetian family who became our friends. They further baptized my grandson. They came to the church to our place and they baptized him there. They called my son that they wanted to baptize his son.
Our gorge consists of 9 villages. If anyone was in trouble we stood by each other. We kept our gorge up to now. Have you seen our gorge? It is so beautiful that anyone who visits it does not want to leave.
My son was forced to leave home in Tkhinvali and became an IDP. He was forced to leave long ago. He is living outside home for so long and only thing he managed is to pay the tuition fee for his son. He could not purchase anything. Now he has two more sons. We lost a child in Gori. We got him back only today. The child is 13. He was accompanied by his grandmother. We have no news about her. Sometimes I would faint from the grievance sometimes his mother. He was lost for 5 days.
They took away our belongings in Tskhinvali. Once we started from the very beginning and here it starts again. The people who arrived after us bring this news. There still are people left. We cannot contact them for two days now.. There is no news.
Nino Tsereteli, aged 36
We left the village Achabeti on 8th of August, 2008 at 6 o’clock in the evening. We left by the car of our neighbor. Out of the sudden they told us to evacuate. The people were escaping and calling as to leave with them. They were shouting about the approaching army. The bombings started on 8th. There are Russian checkpoints nearby our village. They were shooting from Russian checkpoints.
Tamar Apstiauri, 28:
I live in the village of Megvrikisi, Gori region. I left on Sunday, my husband – on Monday. When our Army started to leave and we were about being bombed, we had no other choice. Surely it was better to join my children, then to die. So we left without taking anything from the house. My children had left before. I have three children and when we were coming, it seemed I would not be able to see them again. I was looking up, fearing that something would fall on me. Only things that I managed to take were the clothes of the kids, nothing else.
We left on the car of my neighbour. He rushed in our house and told we needed to leave. He said, “Don’t you see what is happening with us?”. When we saw the smoke above Eredvi, we decided that if we did not leave, we would die. That is why we escaped. Our village is situated right at the location of peacekeepers near Ergneti. So to say, we are caught in teeth of Ossetians.
We travelled safely. Obviously they had not started to move in this direction. My husband also managed to escape yesterday.
When I left, my house was not damaged, though I don’t know about its condition now. At that moment, the village was also not burnt down so far.
Simon from the village of Nikozi, Gori region:
I left yesterday. They fired shells from helicopters and pursuit planes. What firing it was by Russians! They led an air attack. The Georgian villages were shelled: Upper Nikozi and Lower Nikozi. I reached my home crawling all the way. My mother was staying there. I could not get her out. She walks via two crutches. She is 82 years old and she is still there. The only thing I could do was that I gave her my cell phone and instructed how to use it. Until now I managed to contact her. Supposedly the battery is dead now; there is no electricity to charge it. I cannot contact her anymore. I have no idea what is going on there. The houses are burnt and demolished. No one is there. Almost 95% has left. People died. People died before my leaving and after it. People that could not be taken out are buried by their relatives in their own yards. Now the village is empty, neither Ossetians, nor Georgians remained there. Maybe ten or fifteen elderly people are present. No army is standing there.
There is Nikozi diocesan Church in our village. Yesterday, when I came there, found the bishop Isaia and his congregation praying. The shelling started just at that moment. The monastery was also bombed. The Bishop had to take his congregation out of there. We were going along the gates on foot. I asked my mother to follow us slowly, on foot. She decided she could not go. Then I kissed her and left, saying, “Mother, come what may.”
We passed several villages on foot. The Bishop contacted the priest Andria, who came for us with a minibus from Gori. Only the bishop Isaia and the priest Antoni left behind, saying “We cannot leave now” and they went back under fire and this disaster. They are there even today. We left. I could imagine anything, but shelling the Orthodox Church.
We left Gori on a minibus. The people were coming on foot. The army was still there. When we were passing by, we saw how they were being bombed. However, our minibus escaped without damage. There was nothing sacred for them, neither church, nor anything – everything was shelled.
We were hiding under the threes. It is hard to hide away from a shell. Even previously they used to shell us. Everybody is helping. The faster we are back, the better, though going back… well, we can go back, but how will we manage to live there? Ossetians are all around. From the edge of my house, their village starts. There is even no boundary between our villages. There is even no 100 meters distance between them. We will be subjected to permanent suppression there; they will do with us whatever they wish. These last years the people managed to reconcile. So we were living peacefully.
A man from village Zubaani
I was walking in Zubaani where I got a car and moved towards Eredvi. On the way we were bombed twice. I jumped out of the car and went village by village. I came to Korda on foot at 12 p.m. Many people died in Eredvi. I hadn’t taken anything just a pocket torch to have a light at night. Valley is fully destroyed, houses are burnt. It makes no difference whether it is my own house or not. All my family is here. I have not any information if anybody is still left there..
August 14, 2008
Agence France Presse
Russian forces have “changed their mind” about leaving the flashpoint Georgian town of Gori and are not withdrawing, a Georgian interior ministry spokesman told AFP Thursday.”All night they said they would leave and now they have changed their mind. Georgian forces have stopped (going to Gori) to avoid clashes with the Russians,” Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told AFP.
A Dutch television journalist was killed when Russian warplanes bombed the central Georgian city of Gori. The television news station RTL cameraman Stan Storimans, 39, was killed and correspondent Jeroen Akkermans was wounded in the leg in the attack.
I am deeply sorry for this tragedy and my thoughts go out to Mr. Storimans’ family, his wife and two children.
Storimans had planned to publish a book this year describing his 20 years of reporting from hotspots like Sri Lanka, Congo, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Iraq and the former Yugoslavia, among others.
By David Alexander, BREGANCON, France (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will ask Georgia’s president on Friday to sign a French-negotiated ceasefire that contains some apparent concessions to Moscow but would lead to the withdrawal of Russian forces, officials said.
Associated Press writers in Europe, Turkey and the Middle East contributed to this report
Major international aid commitments to Georgia to help victims of the Russian-Georgian conflict:
_The International Committee of the Red Cross, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and the U.N.’s World Food Program have been providing aid through long-standing operations in Georgia. In addition:
_ICRC dispatched the first of five new shipments of food and other supplies for 25,000 people.
_World Food Program sent two planeloads of high-energy biscuits.
_U.N. refugee agency has sent two planeloads of supplies and plans a third flight Friday.
_U.S. sent two cargo planes carrying US$2 million (€1.3 million) worth of sleeping bags, cots, medical supplies — including syringes and surgical supplies.
_Turkish Red Crescent has sent tents, blankets, bottled water and food, and a new truck convoy is to leave Thursday. Turkish government to dispatch medical aid.
_ Greece sent a plane to Georgia with 14 tons of medical supplies, tents and blankets. It also contributed €100,000 ($149,000) through the UNHCR for refugees who fled across the Russian border into North Ossetia.
_Italy is sending two planes with food and equipment. Italy’s Red Cross is to send kitchens to provide 10,000 daily meals, and is contributing about €1 million (US$1.5 million) through the U.N. and Red Cross.
_Bulgaria to send relief supplies; will offer EU the use of Black Sea port of Burgas as aid coordination center.
_EU has released €1 million (US$1.5 million) in fast-track aid.
_Poland and the Roman Catholic charity Caritas sent 4 tons of first aid
_Czech Republic said it is providing aid worth 5 million koruna (€209,000; US$310,000).
_Slovakia says it is providing 5.6 million Slovak koruna (€185,000; US$276,000).
_Germany said it will give €1 million (US$1.5 million).
_Dutch donated €500,000 (US$745,150) to the international Red Cross.
_Finland pledged €1 million (US$1.5 million) in aid and the Finnish Red Cross has offered a field hospital.
_Denmark gave 3 million kroner (€402,000, US$599,100).
_Estonia sent more than 5.5 tons of humanitarian aid and pledged a field hospital with a medical team.
_Latvia sent a plane carrying medical supplies, including blood plasma.
_Austria said it will send medical supplies, tents, blankets.
The source obtained from:
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I’ve just met with my national security team to discuss the crisis in Georgia. I’ve spoken with President Saakashvili of Georgia, and President Sarkozy of France this morning. The United States strongly supports France’s efforts, as President of the European Union, to broker an agreement that will end this conflict. The United States of America stands with the democratically elected government of Georgia. We insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected.
Russia has stated that changing the government of Georgia is not its goal. The United States and the world expect Russia to honor that commitment. Russia has also stated that it has halted military operations and agreed to a provisional cease-fire. Unfortunately, we’re receiving reports of Russian actions that are inconsistent with these statements. We’re concerned about reports that Russian units have taken up positions on the east side of the city of Gori, which allows them to block the East-West Highway, divide the country, and threaten the capital of Tbilisi.
We’re concerned about reports that Russian forces have entered and taken positions in the port city of Poti, that Russian armored vehicles are blocking access to that port, and that Russia is blowing up Georgian vessels. We’re concerned about reports that Georgian citizens of all ethnic origins are not being protected. All forces, including Russian forces, have an obligation to protect innocent civilians from attack.
With these concerns in mind, I have directed a series of steps to demonstrate our solidarity with the Georgian people and bring about a peaceful resolution to this conflict. I’m sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to France, where she will confer with President Sarkozy. She will then travel to Tbilisi, where she will personally convey America’s unwavering support for Georgia’s democratic government. On this trip she will continue our efforts to rally the free world in the defense of a free Georgia.
I’ve also directed Secretary of Defense Bob Gates to begin a humanitarian mission to the people of Georgia, headed by the United States military. This mission will be vigorous and ongoing. A U.S. C-17 aircraft with humanitarian supplies is on its way. And in the days ahead we will use U.S. aircraft, as well as naval forces, to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies.
We expect Russia to honor its commitment to let in all forms of humanitarian assistance. We expect Russia to ensure that all lines of communication and transport, including seaports, airports, roads, and airspace, remain open for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and for civilian transit. We expect Russia to meet its commitment to cease all military activities in Georgia. And we expect all Russian forces that entered Georgia in recent days to withdraw from that country.
As I have made clear, Russia’s ongoing action raise serious questions about its intentions in Georgia and the region. In recent years, Russia has sought to integrate into the diplomatic, political, economic, and security structures of the 21st century. The United States has supported those efforts. Now Russia is putting its aspirations at risk by taking actions in Georgia that are inconsistent with the principles of those institutions. To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe, and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis.