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25 Aug, 2008 07:26

South Ossetia’s hopes for independence stronger than ever

For more than a decade, South Ossetians have had de-facto independence and many in the Georgian breakaway republic hope the conflict will strengthen their quest for independence and that it will be recognised by the worl

Of the 37,000 that fled the region when the clashes began, more than 18,000 people have now returned to their homes. The Russian Federal Migration Service say around 4,000 are still in Russia. It was not only South Ossetians who have suffered as a result of Georgia's attack on Tskhinvali. An entire Jewish neighbourhood has been wiped out as well.

Many of Tskhinvali's residents have lost everything they had in the fighting including their personal documents and a small photo shop – the only one currently working in the city – is playing an important role in helping the victims of Georgia's aggression get their lives back on track.

Vladimir Ubozhenko is an ethnic Russian but was born in Tskhinvali and has spent all his life there.

He remains the only photographer open for business after his colleague died during Georgia's attacks.

“My colleague perished with all his family. They were hiding in a basement when a shell targeted them right there. It was a direct hit. Their neighbours buried them in their garden. They attacked with multiple shells. It was horrible. The events of 1992 seem like a fairy tale compared with this,” Ubozhenko said.

He says he was lucky that his shop was only hit by a bullet and not a bomb or a rocket. It means he's able to receive customers, many of whom are more in need of his services than ever.

He says he will never leave Tskhinvali. He prefers to look at life with optimism and hopes the worst is now over and only good times are ahead.

The Council of Europe's Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammarberg, who has visited the city of Tskhinvali on Sunday, said it is quite hard to count the exact number of the dead as a result of the conflict, but the job will be done and he promised his report will reflect the situation in South Ossetia objectively and impartially.

Now the main goal for the local population is to rebuild the city as about 700 of Tskhinvali’s buildings have been totally destroyed and many others are seriously damaged.

The water supply and electricity have been restored in Tskhinvali and some 400 tonnes of humanitarian aid is being delivered to the capital daily.