Russia has ordered an end to its military operation in South Ossetia, although a date has yet to be set for the withdrawal of Russian troops, which invaded the Georgian breakaway province on Friday. Our Observers in North Ossetia, South Ossetia and Georgia comment on the situation.
"It’s the Russians who incited South Ossetia into provoking Georgia"
Oleg Panfilov, a Tajikistan national, is the director of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, which criticises the lack of press freedom in Russia. Oleg was in Tbilisi when the conflict broke out.It's the Russians who incited South Ossetia into provoking Georgia, because they were worried about losing a diplomatic game. It was easy, because the Ossetian leaders are all former members of the Soviet or Russian secret services. So Georgia was in fact intervening to neutralise military groups that posed a threat to them. Russia took the opportunity to try to seize part of Georgia's territory [South Ossetia and Abkhazia]. They're trying to recreate the Soviet Union. I hope that the US and the EU will realise what a major threat this dictator, Putin, poses, and save Georgia, which is a beacon of democracy in the region."
"After what’s happened, I want North and South Ossetia (…) to become part of the Russian Federation"
I might have been unsure about South Ossetia's future before, but I'm not now. After what's happened, I want North and South Ossetia to be reunited and become part of the Russian Federation. Of course, everyone dreams of independence, but economically, taking into account our landlocked circumstances, it's never going to happen.
Before the first conflict in 1991, the South Ossetians were closer to the Georgians than to the North Ossetians. This was largely because there was a natural frontier between the north and south - the mountains. There were many mixed marriages [between South Ossetians and Georgians] and young people went to study in Tbilisi rather than Vladikavkaz [North Ossetia]. The South Ossetians had more or less the same customs as the Georgian people. They lived together, side by side. Before this war, they kept up good relations. It's really this conflict that's changed all that.
South Ossetian refugees sheltered in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia.
Photos: Liza Valieva.
"Without the Russians we’d all be dead"
Napoleon Tabouev, 53, is a chauffeur in Tskhinvali, South Ossetia.
I've been hiding in the cellar of my building with my neighbours since the start of all this. There are about 150 of us. You can't even escape through a side building, because people are still shooting outside. The town has been completely ruined: there's rubble everywhere. Luckily there's a bread factory not far away. We go there to eat and charge our phones because the electricity's still turned on. We haven't got access to television or news of any kind.
The Georgians act like animals. They crushed people with their tanks [not verified]. Without the Russians we'd all be dead."