Russian-backed paramilitaries 'ethnically cleansing villages'

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London, Aug.28 : Russian-backed paramilitaries are "ethnically cleansing" villages on Georgian soil, The Times quoted refugees and officials, as saying.

South Ossetian militiamen have torched houses, beaten elderly people and even murdered civilians in the lawless buffer zone set up by the Russian Army just north of Gori.

The violence, close to the border with the breakaway republic recognized by Russia this week as independent, has prompted a new wave of refugees into Gori, 40 miles north of Tbilisi.

People who had started to return to their villages in the area are now fleeing for a second time, joined by many elderly people who had refused to leave their homes when the Russians invaded two weeks ago.

Most gathered yesterday at the feet of a giant statue of Josef Stalin, Gori's infamous native son, to register with the local authorities and the UN refugee agency, the UNHCR, for emergency supplies and accommodation in three tent cities being built near a football stadium.

Other refugees were clustered in the shabby city hall, trying to glean news of relatives still inside the buffer zone.

The UNHCR has voiced its concern about reports of "new forcible displacement caused by marauding militias north of Gori near the boundary with South Ossetia".

ANI

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