Russian maestro: Georgian attack is Ossetia's 9/11
Russia's most famous conductor, Valery Gergiev, said on Thursday Georgia's assault on South Ossetia was comparable to the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Gergiev, an ethnic Ossetian, drew the parallel after seeing the bombed and burnt out houses of Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's capital which was shelled by Georgian forces earlier this month.
Feted as one of the world's top conductors, Gergiev -- who grew up in the neighboring Russian region of North Ossetia -- visited the devastated Jewish Quarter of Tskhinvali before conducting a special concert on the town's central square.
"When the U.S. lost three and a half thousand people on September 11th, Russia became the first country to express its support," said Gergiev, referring to the al Qaeda attacks in 2001 which in fact killed nearly 3,000.
"For South Ossetia to lose 1,500 or 2,000 people today is a terrible tragedy but no one knows about it," he said. "To shoot at kids, at children from a tank, it's a shame and the world should know about this shame."
Gergiev looked shocked as he was shown around the ruins of houses reduced to mangled rubble.
Russian forces repelled the invasion and then pushed further into Georgia, provoking an storm of international criticism. Washington said Moscow's actions had evoked Cold War memories of the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe.
But South Ossetia and Russia say Georgian troops went on the rampage during their attack and accuse Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili of genocide against the Ossetians, who are ethnically distinct from Georgians.
Currently director of the Mariinsky Theatre in Russia's northern city of St Petersburg, Gergiev was born in Moscow but spent his childhood in North Ossetia.
"The World Doesn't Know The Truth"
Ossetians say the world has ignored their plight and that only Russia came to their aid.
"The world doesn't know the truth about what happened in Tskhinvali, there is a huge manipulation of public opinion happening now," Gergiev said.
"I am a musician and I am also an Ossetian and what makes me tense is I have friends in Georgia... but the Georgians do not know the truth," he said.
Georgia says Ossetian bands have looted and shot ethnic Georgians in and around South Ossetia.
The small, pro-Russian province in the Caucasus mountains, which broke away from Georgian rule in 1992 after a war, says it will ask the Kremlin to recognize its independence.
Eduard Kokoity, South Ossetia's separatist leader, told a rally of several thousand people earlier on Thursday that Georgia had undermined its own statehood by trying to seize his region by force on Aug 7-8.
Widows and mothers in black, with photographs of their loved ones pinned to their chests, shed tears in the shadows of bombed-out houses on the central square of Tskhinvali as Kokoity lambasted Georgia and its Western backers.
"I have already prepared an address to the president of the Russian Federation ... and to the heads of state of the international community, with a request to recognize our independence," Kokoity said.
[Source: By Dmitry Solovyov, The Post Chronicle, New York, 21Aug08]
The Question of South Ossetia
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