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Georgia's Chechens relive own Russian war

Russia's military presence in Georgia has unnerved refugees who fled here from Chechnya in the 1990s.

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When Russian tanks rolled toward Tbilisi, Georgia, in August, shops closed and streets emptied as residents stayed indoors, glued to their televisions and radios. A hundred miles northeast, in the mountainous enclave of Pankisi Gorge, Chechen refugees also watched Russian troops advancing on TV, but with less stupefaction and more cynicism.

The Russian Army's five-day invasion over South Ossetia, a breakaway territory in Georgia, reminded them of Russia's brutal war in Chechnya throughout the 1990s.

"They [the Russians and Ossetians] are talking about genocide, but nobody is talking about the terrible things that happened in Chechnya.... [The Russians] say they fought to protect their citizens, but look what they did to us. We were their citizens, too," says Musa Dadayev, a refugee in Pankisi since 1999.

Chechnya spent the better half of the 1990s at war with Russia. Like Georgia's separatist territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it won de facto independence at the end of a gun. But when Russia launched a second frontin 1999 to regain control, it leveled Grozny, Chechnya's capital, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Amnesty International estimates that 25,000 civilians were killed in this war alone.


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