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21 Aug, 2008 13:11

State of emergency lifted in Ossetia

The state of emergency imposed in South Ossetia since the end of hostilities has been lifted. Life in the republic is gradually returning to normal as thousands of refugees make their way home.

Harmony in ruined capital

The principal conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra and artistic director of St.Peretsburg's Mariinsky Theatre, Valery Gergiev, has led a concert in Tskhinvali.

For more on this please follow the link.

Tskhinvali restoration

More than 15,000 people have already returned to the capital since the fighting ended but Russia's Emergencies Ministry says it needs more help from local people to rebuild South Ossetia's devastated infrastructure. Progress is being made and restoration work is in full swing, with the water supply to the capital Tskhinvali having been almost been fully restored. Another key task is to repair broken windows before cold weather sets in.

The authorities have pledged to restore at least four schools before September 1 and hospitals are also at the top of the reconstruction list.

Russia is to spend $US 60 million by the end of the year on the reconstruction of South Ossetia’s infrastructure.

More than 3,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid have already arrived from various Russian regions, mostly consisting of food, clothes, medical supplies and construction materials.

The Chechen Republic has also joined the humanitarian aid programme for the region. It is providing food and construction materials.

Russian combat engineers are still involved in mine-clearing operations in South Ossetia. They say they have already found and defused about 300 unexploded mines and artillery shells across the region.

Meanwhile, officials in South Ossetia have given a figure for the number of people killed during Georgia's failed military offensive to win control of the region. Authorities in the capital Tskhinvali say 1,492 Ossetians lost their lives in the conflict.

According to officials, the capital Tskhinvali and the surrounding area suffered the greatest losses.

Many foreign journalists have received accreditation to work in the region and are being given guided tours by local officials to show them the scale of the damage and devastation.

Locals’ reaction to the pull-out of Russian troops from Georgia has been negative. They fear with Russian forces out of the region, Georgia might attack again.

According to Anatoly Nogovitsyn, Deputy Chief of Staff at the Russian Defence Ministry, who was speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, 64 Russian soldiers were killed in action and 323 were wounded.

Jewish neighbourhood destroyed

It was not only South Ossetians who suffered as a result of Georgia's attack on Tskhinvali. An entire Jewish neighbourhood has been wiped out as well.

Witnesses say it's now hard to find a home that's left intact in the district where dozens of Jewish families used to live.

RT found one Jewish family remaining in war-torn Tskhinvali – for more follow the link.

Local Georgians

Meanwhile, ethnic Georgians who lived in the area prior to the conflict had to leave in a hurry leaving most of their belongings.

According to some estimates, before August 8, 2008, Georgians made up a third of South Ossetian population. Very few stayed and their relations with the local population are now very strained.

UN High Commissioner visits North Ossetia

Thousands of refugees from the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict are staying in temporary shelters in Russia's North Ossetia.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres is in North Ossetia’s Vladikavkaz where he is to spend the next two days assessing the situation. He is to meet Russian officials and humanitarian groups.

He says he is there to provide all the necessary assistance to Russian authorities.

Antonio Guterres has added he is aware of the extraordinary effort made by Russia to support the victims of the conflict.