Georgian villages burned and looted as Russian tanks advance
Mood of panic as eyewitnesses say ceasefire being broken by Russian military and 'irregulars'
August 13, 2008
The Guardian (UK) (http://www.guardian.co.uk/)
Villages in Georgia were being burned and looted as Russian tanks and soldiers followed by "irregulars" advanced from the breakaway province of South Ossetia, eyewitnesses said today.
"People are fleeing, there is a mood of absolute panic. The idea there is a ceasefire is ridiculous," Luke Harding, the Guardian's correspondent, said.
Earlier, witnesses reported a military convoy heading towards the Georgian capital Tbilisi, but it later turned off the road and headed back towards South Ossetia. Russia denied any advance. Harding, watching villages near Gori burn, said witnesses had told him Russian military, including at least 25 tanks, had moved from the Russian-controlled South Ossetia into the villages.
"They asked villagers to hang white flags or handkerchiefs outside their houses if they did not want to be shot, they say." The tanks had passed through the village of Rekha at about 11.20am local time. "Behind them (say eyewitnesses) is a whole
column of irregulars who locals say are Chechens, Cossacks and Ossetians.
"Eyewitnesses say they are looting, killing and burning. These irregulars have killed three people and set fire to villages. They have been taking away young boys and girls," said Harding, watching smoke rise from another village, Karaleti.