Georgian Village Bombed as Fighting Neared an End
August 12, 2008 - 4:35 PMLiving near a conflict zone has taught 70-year-old Vakhtang Chkhekvadze to sense danger.
But it came stealthily this time, in a bombing that caught the Georgian villager by surprise.
"I always hide in the basement. But this time the explosion came so abruptly, I don't remember what happened afterward," Chkhekvadze said as he removed the remains of a window frame torn by the explosion.
Chkhekvadze was stunned by the shock wave, but suffered no injuries when a neighbor's house was bombed, just a half hour before Russian television stations broadcast President Dmitry Medvedev's statement announcing a halt to fighting.
His neighbors had fled the previous day from Ruisi, a village near the breakaway region South Ossetia, but other villagers were not so lucky. Two men and a woman were killed and another five people were wounded in the attack.
Neither Chkhekvadze, nor other residents of Ruisi, could figure out whether they were hit by a bomb dropped from a plane or a rocket, but said it showered the village with fragments.
The Georgian government said that Ruisi and another village were hit by Russian forces who have been active for several days in the region since Georgia launched an offensive to retake South Ossetia on Thursday. Several houses in a village of 3,000 were still smoldering when an AP reporter visited the village. Many others were damaged by shrapnel, and blackened grapes hanged among gutted walls.
Amiran Vardzelashvili, 77, was killed by a fragment which hit him in the heart, villagers said. Others died of multiple shrapnel wounds.
Fellow villagers grimly sat in the yards of those who died, mourning for the victims.
The victims, all elderly, were all working in the field when the attack came.
"There were so many fragments. I believe they use that kind of ammunition to hit infantry, but they showered it on our heads," said one villager, Gekha Gasitashvili.
Some villagers said that the Russians could have been targeting a truck repair shop on the outskirts of the village, which they might have mistaken for a military-related facility. If they did, they missed the target, as the explosion hit a different part of the village, far from the repair shop.
The Russian military said its warplanes were targeting supply lines, military facilities and communications and not civilians.
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