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20 Sep, 2008 18:31

No rain on their parade: South Ossetians mark Independence Day

South Ossetia has been celebrating Independence Day. Eighteen years ago, the region unilaterally declared independence from Georgia, leading to a bloody conflict. The republic remained unrecognised until last month when Russia acknowledged its statehood f

On Saturday a victory parade was held in the capital Tskhinval. Military vehicles drove along the city’s streets, followed by Russian peacekeepers and a procession of children. They were carrying balloons to remember those who died in the days following Georgia’s attack of August 8.

The President of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoity, awarded medals to those who have distinguished themselves during the last year.

“Looking back at the events of the past and analysing them, we ask ourselves: did we have any other option, but to declare independence? Did we have any other option after being threatened by aggression, ethnic cleansing and genocide? The answer is – no we did not,” he said.

At the Memorial Cemetery in school number five, Tskhinval, wreaths were placed on the graves of those who died in the first conflict with Georgia between 1989 and 1992.

A photo exhibition called ‘August 8’, devoted to the recent war in South Ossetia, has been opened in the city and in evening the city hosted a concert featuring many Russian performers.

It was on this day in 1990 that South Ossetia first claimed independence, but it was a short-lived dream crushed by the war with Georgia in 1992.

“We've gained our independence. I think we have a bright future, especially with Russia at our side,” one of the locals said.

“We have been striving for independence all our lives and now we've achieved it,” another one added.

Addressing the crowd during the celebration, President Kokoity said:

“I had promised my people that we would be an independent recognised republic – we are now living in such a republic. I had promised that we would live as one family of people of the Causasus – and now we live as one family. I promised we would be together with Russia – and now we are.”