South Ossetia, Georgia: Journalists Killed, Foreigners Evacuated

by Elia Varela Serra

Global Voices Online
August 11th, 2008 @ 20:29 UTC

Yesterday, the Russian radio station Echo Moscow reported that two
Georgian journalists, Alexander Klimchuk and Grigol Chikhladze,
were found dead in a street of Tskhinvali, the capital of the
embattled region of South Ossetia, and that several others had been
wounded. Russophone bloggers wrote about their killing, and Dean
C.K. Cox posted a report from the Russian daily Kommersant on the
LightStalkers forum:

Two journalists were killed and eight wounded in three days of fighting
in South Ossetia.

A group of journalists, including Alexander Klimchuk, the owner of
Georgia’s sole independent photo agency Caucasus Press Images, who
worked under the contract with ITAR-TASS, his colleague Teimuraz
Kikuradze, Grigol Chikhladze from Newsweek Russia, as well as the
U.S. reporter Winston Faderly, had disappeared in South Ossetia’s
capital Tskhinvali far back on Friday. The news on their destiny
emerged only yesterday. Klimchuk and Chikhladze were killed, other
journalists were wounded.

According to Caucasus Press Images, Klimchuk and Chikhladze had been in
South Ossetia even before the start of Georgia’s assault. In time of
street fighting in Tskhinvali, they were in the area first controlled
by the Georgians and then by the Ossetians.

Other journalists are in Tskhinvali and the condition of Faderly is
rather grave.

Russia’s reporters – a film crew of Vesti TV Channel of Alexander
Sladkov, Leonid Losev and Igor Uklein, as well as Komsomolskaya
Pravda reporter Alexander Kots – survived the fire Saturday. They were
moving in column of armored vehicles led by the 58th Army Commander
General-Lieutenant Anatoly Khrulev when attacked by officers of
Georgian riot unit positioned two levels above, at the height of 80
meters and 120 meters.

NTV producer Pyotr Gassiev was also wounded in Tskhinvali, news
agencies reported past night.

Meanwhile, foreigners are being evacuated from Georgia. "Not because
it’s not safe, but because we can’t do very much work at the moment",
wrote Tbilisi-based blogger Wu Wei.

Zygmunt Dzieciolowski, a Polish journalist in Georgia with a grant
from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, described his evacuation
at the Untold Stories blog:

This morning foreign embassies began evacuating their citizens from
Georgia, having decided that the situation here is too unpredictable
and that foreign nationals should leave.

Some European countries sent their own aircraft to Tbilisi to retrieve
their citizens but the majority are organizing vehicle convoys to
the Armenian capital of Yerevan, three hours south. The rules are
strict. Only passport holders of those countries which organize convoys
can board their buses: The U.S. embassy takes care of Americans, the
Polish Embassy Poles (and also the citizens of some friendly European
nations represented by Poles in Georgia, like Estonia and Slovakia).

When we came we felt some tension, but the tension is always here. At
the beginning of our trip we had plenty of time for detailed
discussions with politicians, journalists, military and simple
people. Now I am headed home, and hopefully from there on to Moscow,
in the meantime thinking of all that has happened in a few short
days to produce the situation of our departure, in an humanitarian
evacuation convoy.

The Caucasian Knot, quoting Regional Reporters, reported that that
1,200 Armenian tourists vacationing in the Black Sea resorts of Batumi
and Kobuleti have been evacuated from Georgia as well.

Asier Blas, a Spanish political scientist currently in Tbilisi, has
been blogging about the situation he’s experiencing in Georgia. In
his blog Cartas del Este [Spanish] he wrote about last night’s rally
in Tbilisi, describing his fears at the escalating conflict:

Cuando ya dormía, aproximadamente a las 04:30 am nos despertaron
las bombas que cayeron en Tbilisi. Nos agolpamos tres personas en la
terraza, la noche, el susto de despertarse con sonidos de bombas y
el miedo, hicieron que nuestras miradas por un momento se cruzasen
envueltas en pánico. Un minuto mas tarde comenta Nadine que no nos
preocupemos, "es lo mismo que la noche anterior, no es en el centro y
lo único que buscan es crear miedo". Estamos de acuerdo los tres, pero
las guerras se saben como empiezan pero no como acaban. Es urgente que
cese el fuego definitivamente, hoy lunes parece que puede ser posible,
confiemos en ello.

While I was sleeping, approximately at 04:30 am we were woken up by
the bombs falling on Tbilisi. The three of us run to the terrace and
the night, the scare of waking up to the sound of bombs and the fear
made us glance at each other in panic. A minute later Nadine told us
not to worry, "it’s the same as last night, it’s not in the center
and the only thing they’re trying to do is create fear". The three
of us agreed, but wars are something that you know how it starts but
not how it ends. A definite ceasefire is urgent, and today Monday it
seems possible, let’s hope so.