TSKHINVALI, Georgia – Russia has sent hundreds of workers to rebuild this shattered rebel capital just weeks after its military routed Georgian forces here, and has promised cash payments for every South Ossetian – the latest in efforts to shore up its alliance with the breakaway Georgian province.
Moscow is matching in South Ossetia what the U.S. and its allies are doing in Georgia, pouring in aid to support its ally along the new confrontation line that has grown up between Russia and the West.
Russian authorities have dispatched 500 construction workers to repair and rebuild scores of damaged or destroyed administrative buildings and schools, as well as the region’s main hospital in Tskhinvali. It’s a massive effort made possible by Russia’s oil-fueled economic resurgence.
Znaur Gassiyev, speaker of South Ossetia’s legislature, said it will cost $400 million to repair the destruction.
In addition to the construction effort, South Ossetian Prime Minister Boris Chochiyev said that Russia has promised to pay South Ossetians up to $2,000 each in compensation for war damage.
Russia has provided financial, military and political support to South Ossetia, as well as another separatist-held Georgian territory, Abkhazia, since the early 1990s. Last year alone, Russia spent an estimated $66 million in subsidies for South Ossetia, Gassiyev said.
Russia is the only country to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations. Over the next few years, many expect Moscow formally to annex one or both of them – calling their citizens victims of Georgian aggression.