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South Ossetians Give Thanks For Russia's Help

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08/13/2008 08:08 AM
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South Ossetians Give Thanks For Russia's Help
The view from South Ossetia: Joy and thanks in the land that is now part of Russia

By Matt Siegel in Tskhinvali
Wednesday, 13 August 2008

In a courtyard lined with rubble, trays of meat and bread are brought forth, and homemade, slightly bitter wine to wash it down. Hardly a lavish feast, but for the residents of this bombed-out building in the South Ossetian capital, this is a true liberation banquet.

Sons who had been off fighting are reunited with their mothers. Elderly residents who had spent days hunkering down in basements to avoid mortar shells and bullets emerge, squinting at the sunlight. They toast each other's health, the fact that they have survived, and the people they view as their liberators the Russians.

As Russian tanks and trucks loaded with rocket launchers roll through the smouldering streets, the few civilians left in Tskhinvali repeat "thank you, thank you" over and over. Some have tears rolling down their faces, others salute and cheer. One elderly man simply stands to attention, closes his eyes and makes the sign of the cross.

Moscow may have earned worldwide condemnation for using "disproportionate force" and extending the battle beyond the disputed province of South Ossetia, into Georgia proper. Not in this town, where many hold Russian passports and use the rouble as their currency. Here, the Russians are saviours.

"It looks like a small Stalingrad, doesn't it?" says Teimuraz Pliyev, 62. "Barbarians! Look this is Georgian democracy. If it weren't for Russia, we would already have been buried here."

"Georgians" and "Genocide" come up again and again in these crumpled streets, always in the same breath.

"I saw a Georgian soldier throw a grenade into a basement full of women and children," rages Sarmat Tskhovredov, 28, who joined to fight on the spur of the moment. "The young men ran, but the women and the infirm who could not leave were shot like dogs."

[link to www.independent.co.uk]