The village of Knolevi in the Kareli district borders the Znauri district, which is now under the controlled of South Ossetians militiamen and their Russian backers. The Russian checkpoint is located a mere 70 meters from the end of the village. Ossetian paramilitary militia is deployed just on the other side of the uneasy divide; they can be found in the forests and nearby Ossetian villages.
Ossetian and Russian soldiers looted Knolevi during August’s war and this village is just one from among many looted and ransacked Georgian village. The signs of looting are still visible in Knolevi, and the trauma has left a lasting impression on the minds of the people. Villagers are still afraid of being able to safely return to their homes, and many cases they have no homes to return to – as they were burnt down during or after the war.
Gunfire is still being heard at night and the continued threatening presence of Russian forces amounts to a constant declared state of psychological war by both the Russians and South Ossetians, which has had a major impact on the locals. Villagers do not feel at all safe and the presence of a Georgian checkpoint at the beginning of the village is not enough. It is not located them and the Russians controlled zone. However, European observers are visiting the village everyday and that is some reassurance.
It is most unfortunate that Georgian government has effectively forced the IDPs to return to this village, as they were given no alternative place to live and faced a cutoff of food supplies. The choice is simple: if they don’t want to return home they will be left without any food assistance and it no other alternative. They can either starve or return to their former village. IDPs from Knolevi, sheltering in Rustavi, are no longer receiving donated food products from the UNCHR until they are willing to return to the village.
|Knolevi Village Center. Returnees sharing their feelings with each other. Note Russian checkpoint in background||We are told how and from where Ossetians were firing all night long and how they are afraid of remaining in the village. No choice but to stay as they have no other place to go.||Several houses are burnt down. The owners of these houses are forced to come and shelter with their neighbors|
| Deputy Governor of Kareli district explains to us that villagers will always have to live in some kind of danger but people should be returned by all means. At the moment damaged houses are being rehabilitated and villagers will face the winter in warm houses;
||Soldiers deployed in the village are persuading us that it is not dangerous to return to the village. Georgian army, special unit and observers are fully in control. Ossetians and Russians are shooting in the air. They are conducting a typical psychological war.|| “We will not return our children, young girls to the village. If something starts, they will kill us all until our army comes here; they are nearer and we are afraid.”
|Russian checkpoint, located not far away. They are located even closer to the houses of Georgian people than to Georgian checkpoint.||Ossetians are hiding out in these mountains and forests. They do not show off like Russians but locals are more afraid of them than of the Russians. As villagers say they threatened to burn the village|| “They have repaired the roof but nothing has really changed. The roof still leaks.”
Name: ნინო თოთლაძე
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