Air of revenge hangs over Georgia conflict zone

Why do we feel like the MP priest at the end of this article is not providing humanitarian aid…. NFTU

The village appeared deserted as convoys of Russian troops rumbled along the highway towards the Russian border in what Moscow said was the start of a pull-back demanded by the West.

In Kvemoachabeti, two buses lay ablaze as groups of two to three camouflaged men patrolled the streets, green mountains towering above the village’s gardens and vineyards.

In another village, an appliances shop called “Elit Electronic” appeared to have been ransacked, its windows shattered and all the goods gone from the shelves.

Apart from scenes of destruction, the villages appeared calm and there were no signs of outright violence.

South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity has denied Tbilisi’s allegations of looting and destruction in Georgian-populated villages. Russian defence officials have dismissed claims they are abetting abuses by South Ossetian forces.

South Ossetians, ethnically different from Georgians, say they were forcibly absorbed into Georgia under Soviet rule and now want to exercise their right to self-determination.

Many see Georgia’s actions this month as unforgivable and have vowed revenge. Georgia, for its part, has accused Russia of giving weapons to South Ossetian rebels and sparking the war by sending troops to the breakaway region.

And the conflict is spreading beyond politics.

In the Georgian town of Gori — birthplace of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin — a Russian Orthodox priest said he came to Georgia from Russia to protect his “brothers” and help with the relief effort.

“We are defending our Orthodox brothers, Ossetians,” said Father Pimen, sporting a metal cross over his black robes, after two boys on the main square shouted “enemy” at him. “We came here to help them when the Georgians were prepared to kill all of them.”