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13 Aug, 2008 08:51

Ossetian refugees mourn their dead

As the noise from guns and shells dies down in the conflict zone, the sound is replaced by the crying of desperate victims. Following Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia, it's hard to find a citizen who hasn't lost a relat

With the humanitarian corridor now completely under peacekeepers' control, convoys of refugees continue to stream into Russia's southern regions, where they are being provided with food and shelter.

International aid

With South Ossetia's capital Tskhinvali completely devastated, and more than 30,000 people displaced, the international community is offering aid to those in need.

France has sent a planeload of humanitarian aid and is distributing 30 tonnes of medicine and other necessities among the victims of the conflict.

Spain has allocated €500,000 to help those in need.

Meanwhile, British prime minister, Gordon Brown, has expressed his readiness to participate in the relief effort.

Shadow of sorrow

Cars loaded with dead bodies continue to arrive at the morgues of Vladikavkaz and dozens of funerals are under way.

Koch Final, a 24-year-old volunteer, was shot near Tskhinvali. His family say they last spoke to him two days ago. He was caught in the middle of an interior barrage of the city.

“At four o'clock in the evening we called him there. He said massive shooting had begun and promised to call back. He never did,” his sister recalls.

Valentina Boratova spent three days in a bunker and, during a lull in the fighting, she managed to escape. She says her son remained in Tskhinvali to protect those left behind.

“We always hear disinformation. South Ossetians never attacked anybody, but the Georgians committed the fourth genocide here. They did it in 1920, 1991, 2004 and now,” Boratova says.

Refugee camps near the borderare filled with women and children. They have lost their homes as well as their relatives. Many had to avoid flying bullets while trying to find their way to safety.

People here say the number of refugees will only increase. And with it, the cemeteries of North Ossetia will become fuller by the day.

Refuge on the coast

Thousands of people have been placed in temporary shelters across southern Russia. Each has their own terrible story to share, and many need psychological help.

They include hundreds of children, terrified by the events of the past few days, and who now find themselves in strange surroundings away from their homes.

Diana Mairamova is eight. She has never been on a beach before. Diana is one of more than 300 Ossetian refugees who found shelter at the Russian Black sea resort of Anapa. Diana's grandmother, Elena Kozaeva, says they were hiding together in the basement of their Tskinvali home, when it was shelled by Georgian artillery.

“We saw that our house caught fire too. We ran out, but didn't know where to go. We were so scared. For the whole day we looked into the face of death. The shooting was so strong, the noise was overwhelming. We thought that we would surely die,” Kozaeva recalls.

Elena's daughter Salima Kharobova says their 90-year-old grandfather is still in Tskhinvali.

“Grandpa is alive, but there is no bread nor any food. I think he is still sitting in the cold basement, hungry,” Kharobova says.

“On behalf of myself and on behalf of the people of Ossetia, I appeal to the president and the prime minister of the Russian Federation to acknowledge us, to acknowledge South Ossetia and deliver us from these fascists,” she pleaded.

Thousands of South Ossetian civilians who suffered from the Georgian bombings, have endured days of fear and despair. Some of them have spent almost 20 hours on the road before arriving to safety in the Krasnodar region.

Anapa is a traditional children's resort. For South Ossetia's women, children and elderly this is one of the few places where they can feel safe and try to forget the horrors they've seen as Georgia bombed their homes.

Russia says it's prepared to accept any amount of refugees from Tskhinvali here on the Black Sea coast. Anapa's administration is providing food, clothes, housing and transport.

Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov says it is a very emotional time for him – to see children too tired to smile and too scared, after what they had witnessed. Pakhomov says the locals are doing their best to help the refugees.

“We understood that the children had spent a lot of time on the road. We had to immediately wash and feed them, and then put them to bed. So we very quickly accommodated the children, in the matter of half an hour,” Pakhomov says.