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Homeless Stage Protest In South Ossetia

South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity (right, seen with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev) accused the protesters of lacking patriotism and following orders from a Moscow businessman.

South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity (right, seen with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev) accused the protesters of lacking patriotism and following orders from a Moscow businessman.

Between 60 and 200 Ossetians whose homes were destroyed or damaged in the August 2008 war between Georgia and Russia gathered on September 30 outside the government building in Tskhinvali to protest the delay in providing them with new accommodation.

They have since written to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin blaming the South Ossetian leadership for what they consider the inexcusably slow pace of reconstruction.

South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity accused the protesters of lack of patriotism and of staging the protest at the instigation of Moscow-based businessman Albert Dzhussoyev, the unofficial head of the political opposition in exile. The protesters denied this, saying their sole concern is not to have to spend a second winter in tents or temporary accommodation such as farm buildings.

The Russian government reportedly allocated 1.5 billion rubles ($50 million) last year for postconflict reconstruction in South Ossetia, and a further 8.5 billion rubles this year. But of that latter sum, only 2.2 billion rubles is earmarked for housing.

Russian journalists who recently visited Tskhinvali have noted that the republican authorities' first priority has been to rebuild government buildings in the capital, and only then to undertake the most essential repairs to apartment blocks and schools. Much of that repair work to schools and apartment blocks is substandard, with new roofs leaking.

By contrast, of a total of 3,500 damaged or destroyed private homes, not one has been repaired, and only 250 individual new houses will be ready before the onset of winter. Zurab Kabisov, who heads the republic's committee for reconstruction, said the delay in starting work on rebuilding privately owned housing is partly due to endless bureaucratic hassles. But reconstruction plans have also been plagued from the outset by the lack of transparency and by repeated allegations, including by former South Ossetian Security Council secretary Anatoly Barankevich, that funds allocated for rebuilding were being embezzled on a massive scale.

Possibly in light of those persistent rumors, the Russian government released the first tranche (114 million rubles) of this year's funds for housing reconstruction only in June, and the second in early August, following the appointment of a new South Ossetian prime minister, Vadim Brovtsev.

Some observers construed the choice of Brovtsev, the head of a Chelyabinsk-based construction company and someone with no known previous ties to Kokoity or to South Ossetia, as dictated by the need to monitor more closely the use of federal funds. Brovtsev himself told the Russian daily "Vremya novostei" that while Russia's Audit Chamber will continue to keep track of how those funds are spent, the South Ossetian government will also be required to make public expenditure on individual reconstruction projects.

About This Blog

This blog presents analyst Liz Fuller's personal take on events in the region, following on from her work in the "RFE/RL Caucasus Report." It also aims, to borrow a metaphor from Tom de Waal, to act as a smoke detector, focusing attention on potential conflict situations and crises throughout the region. The views are the author's own and do not represent those of RFE/RL.