Areas occupied by Georgian villages before the August, 2008, which are now in ruins, will be cleaned up to give way for agriculture and industrial development and never be used as settlements, breakaway South Ossetian leader Leonid Tibilov said, according to the Russian daily Izvestia.
Several villages close to the breakaway region's capital, Tskhinvali, mainly in its north, were making a Georgian-controlled enclave within South Ossetia before the August, 2008 war. These villages, among them Tamarasheni, Zemo Achabeti, Kvemo Achabeti, Kurta, Kekhvi, were looted and torched during and weeks after the war.
"These territories will not be used for residential development, so there is no need to keep the names [of these villages]; they won't exist as settlements," Tibilov was quoted by the Izvestia.
"I would say, that houses there have not yet been torn down; but we are planning to formalize these territories, where these ruins are remaining, from the legal point of view so that to avoid any questions in our address from anyone tomorrow and day after tomorrow," he said.
"We will be planning cleaning up these villages. Still remaining ruins of course do not look good. On these territories we will be planning to develop some kind of industrial capacities," Tibilov was quoted by the Russian newspaper.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on August 15, that Tibilov's remarks were "latest in the chain of official declarations by the occupation regime during and after the 2008 war, which contain direct admissions of intent to ethnically cleanse the region."
"All responsibility for ethnic cleansing as well as for the acts that pursue an objective of making it irreversible rests with the Russian Federation under the international law. The Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, together with Abkhazia remain under Russia's illegal military occupation and are governed by the occupation regime," the Georgian Foreign Ministry said and called on the co-chairs of the Geneva talks from EU, OSCE and UN "to urgently raise" the issue in their contacts with Moscow.
According to the Human Rights Watch, after Georgian forces withdrew from South Ossetia on August 10, 2008 South Ossetian militiamen deliberately and systematically destroyed ethnic Georgian villages over a period of weeks.
"They looted, beat, threatened, and unlawfully detained numerous ethnic Georgian civilians, and killed several, on the basis of the ethnicity... with the express purpose of forcing those who remained to leave and ensuring that no former residents would return," the Human Rights Watch said in its January, 2009 report, adding that "South Ossetian forces attempted to ethnically cleanse these villages."
Tbilisi-based non-governmental organization, Coalition for Justice, focusing on the IDP and conflict-related issues, compiled last year satellite images of twelve villages before and after the August war showing the scale of destruction.