Russian Hospitals Brace for New Influx of Casualties | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 11.08.2008
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Russian Hospitals Brace for New Influx of Casualties

Armed with automatic rifles, South Ossetia's haphazard rebel outposts don't stand a chance. And as the fighting in the Caucasus continues, some of the wounded are cut off from medical aid.

A wounded Russia pilot in the hospital

This Russian pilot was injured when his plane was shot by Georgian forces

Anatoly Kabisov's hand looked like mush swathed in red-tinged bandages, his raised leg dripped blood onto the cot and a wound to his chest was patched up at a hospital in Vladikavkaz just across the Russian border not far from the fighting in Georgia's rebel region of South Ossetia.

Russian troops have surged into the self-governed region to defend against a Georgian offensive that has penetrated up to the separatist safe haven in the northern city of Java.

South Ossetian men made runs across the border with cars full of refugees to drop into Russian territory and pick up food. Some felt compelled to make a stand to defend their territory, but many were caught in the horrible bombardment by both sides.

Unprepared for war

When the region fought for its independence in 1992, "it wasn't a war then, we only had automatics (rifles), (but) now?" said 29-year-old Roma Dedeyev, running out of words lying next to his compatriot at the hospital.

"There was no preparation for us in this war, we didn't think it would come so fast," Dedeyev said as flies bunched around his wounded leg.

The two said they had been hit by grenade launchers at an outpost 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) out from Java.

"We were sitting there, and we wanted to go to the city to get water, five men ... It happened suddenly." One of the group died while the two others were in intensive care.

More casualties expected

The head of the emergency care center in Vladikavkaz -- just one of a number of hospitals in the region -- has treated 37 South Ossetians severely wounded in the fighting.

A nearby military hospital has treated 67 soldiers including the Russian troop commander General Anatoly Khrulev, hit by shell fragments, a top military official told DPA news agency.

Officials across the region are readying themselves for hundreds more wounded as they wait for the shelling to abate over the lone pass between the mountains from South Ossetia.

"There is no corridor now for refugees and wounded to get out now," said head doctor Alexander Ivanus at a tent hospital set up by Russia's emergency ministry at the mouth of the gorge feeding into the North.

"I was in Yugoslavia for many years, but I never before saw such indifference towards the wounded," he said, adding that 150 injured and 20 in critical condition were now blocked without medical aid.

Humanitarian corridor for civilians

Broken downed Soviet-era tanks were left along the road leading to the regional capital of Tskhinvali Sunday in the wake of a mass mobilization of Russian troops, and the pass seemed eerily vacant in a sign of the intensity of the fighting across the border.

No refugees were coming in Sunday and in the other direction cars filled with men were quickly checked through to rejoin the fighting.

There was some hope of a respite for civilians, with Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gregory Karasin saying late Sunday that an accord had been made by both sides to allow a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians out of Tskhinvali.

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