Georgia: Thousands reported on the move in South Ossetia

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR is closely following the situation in South Ossetia, where thousands of people are reported to be on the move following a week of violent clashes, including heavy shelling and sniper fire, between South Ossetian and Georgian forces.

Russian border officials informed UNHCR's Sub-Office in the southern Russian city of Vladikavkaz that people have been arriving to North Ossetia-Alania in the Russian Federation throughout the night. Authorities say thousands of people have arrived from South Ossetia to North Ossetia-Alania this week. According to non-official sources, some 400 people have moved from South Ossetia to other parts of Georgia. South Ossetia, a breakaway region of Georgia, has an estimated population of more than 50,000.

Reports are trickling out of South Ossetia. This morning, a UNHCR staff member there reported that many buildings and houses have been destroyed and that only military personnel are moving on the streets. Water is also in short supply - a chronic problem worsened by recent events - and that most transport has stopped and shops are running out of food.

In Georgia, staff from UNHCR and our network of partners are monitoring the new arrivals from South Ossetia and maintaining close contact with the Georgian Ministry of Refugee and Accommodation.

In North Ossetia-Alania (Russian Federation), UNHCR's Office in Vladikavkaz is in daily contact with the authorities and following closely the situation. The governments of Georgia and the Russian Federation are responding to the immediate needs of the recent arrivals and have not asked for international assistance.

UNHCR's operations in Georgia focus on six groups totalling more than 275,000 people. They include internally displaced people linked to the conflicts in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as prima facie refugees, asylum seekers, stateless people and returnees. We have six offices in Georgia and more than 50 staff.