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Human Rights Watch Says Ossetian Militias 'Running Wild'

Russian soldiers in the South Ossetia capital, Tskhinvali, in August

Russian soldiers in the South Ossetia capital, Tskhinvali, in August

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is calling for immediate steps by Russia to stop South Ossetian militias from attacking ethnic Georgians in the Akhalgori district.

Tanya Lokshina, deputy director of HRW's Moscow office, told RFE/RL's Georgian Service today that many ethnic Georgians have left their villages in South Ossetia due to the "inappropriate behavior of South Ossetian militias."

Lokshina, who recently returned from South Ossetia, says Russian troops are doing nothing to protect the human rights of the local population.

"One of the most critical problems that we witnessed in South Ossetia is the problem of ethnic Georgian villages that have been burned down and pillaged completely," Lokshina told RFE/RL. "And people who have been forced out of those villages have nowhere to return to. In some villages, there remain literally two or three old men who are fully dependant on the Red Cross."

"Marauders wander the area incessantly," she continued. "And I must say they [rob] not only ethnic Georgians, but also mixed Georgian- Ossetian families and even ethnic Ossetians who live in Georgian villages."

In a statement, HRW said that the militias are "running wild" in the Akhalgori district, in South Ossetia, and have injured Georgian civilians.

She added that not enough has been done to give shelter to citizens of South Ossetia's capital, Tskhinvali, who lost their homes during the Russian-Georgian military conflict in August.

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