Georgians doing forced labor in South Ossetia

August 17, 2008 03:24

Against their will, Georgian men in their 40s and 50s hauled debris from the streets of separatist South Ossetia's bombed-out capital. In a sign that Georgians are being abused in the Russian-controlled province, a Russian officer and armed Ossetians escorted forced laborers Saturday through the city, the nucleus of fighting that has pitted two former Soviet neighbors against each other and worried the world. "They are cleaning up after themselves," said Mikhail Mindzayev, South Ossetia's interior minister. Georgian troops pounded the city with rockets and bombs in a bid to retake control of the province Aug. 7, provoking a fierce response from South Ossetia's Russian backers. Russia sent in hundreds of tanks, and the ensuing street fighting gutted yet more of Tskhinvali. About 80 percent of the city's 30,000 residents fled, Mindzayev said.

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