Daniel McLaughlin
The Independent
August 7, 2008

By day, the tiny rebel capital of South Ossetia and the villages nearby are often quiet. But, by night, they crackle with gun and mortar fire. The old men who pause under shady trees in Tskhinvali look like pensioners anywhere, passing time and reminiscing. But here they talk of weapons, killing and the prospect of war.

Legally part of Georgia, most of the territory is run by separatists who want to unite with their ethnic kin in Russian-controlled North Ossetia.

“From the Soviet days the Georgians always discriminated against us,” says Lev Gogichaev. “Then in the 1990s they opened their prisons and sent convicts, police and soldiers to fight us. But we drove them out. Now they seem ready to attack us again, but we’re not scared. There are no cowards here.” His friends murmur agreement.

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