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Refugees in South Ossetia. Five months after the war…2009-01-23 13:19
Five months after the August events South Ossetia still faces humanitarian problems. They were discussed on 19th January in Moscow at a meeting between the commissioner for the Council of Europe Thomas Hammarberg and the chairman of the State Duma international affairs committee Konstantin Kosachev.
Hammarberg arrived in the Russian capital in order to discuss the condition of the local residents in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zone. Relating the results of his visit to Gazeta, he remarked that special attention was paid to the return of the refugees. He stressed that there was still much to be done on this issue.
"Out of the 20 thousand ethnic Georgians who left for the southern regions of the country," explained the commissioner, "not that many have returned. There are still plenty of problems."
A very important reason for this is probably what Georgiatimes obtained information about from official sources in South Ossetia. This is that the South Ossetian government declared from the very start that any Georgian citizen wishing to live in the republic has to obtain either citizenship of the republic, or Russian citizenship.
As far as the Ossetians are concerned, the situation here is noticeably better:
"Those who left for North Ossetia following the conflict have practically all returned. Apart from a few individuals who have stayed in Vladikavkaz for treatment. Many of the refugees (who have already arrived back in the republic - A.G.) are waiting for their homes to be repaired, which will be completed shortly."
Hammarberg also stated other problems: it is necessary to ensure both the physical and legal protection of civilians from both sides, and to fully clear the territory of landmines.
In the first day and a half after the start of the fighting in South Ossetia, more than 30,000 residents left the republic. This is incidentally almost half its population! (And the number of ethnic Georgians decreased by even more than half). Most of them headed for neighbouring North Ossetia. The same applies for Ossetians who were living in Georgia. The Russians, as Kavkazsky Uzel reported, offered their help, as Vologda oblast' and Stavropol krai were ready to take in refugees.
Since then problems began to arise concerning the return of the refugees.