Places That Don't Exist Episode 3: South Osetia

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Places That Don't Exist Episode 3: South Osetia

The former Soviet state of Georgia has a particular problem with breakaway states. After independence from Moscow three parts of the country – South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Adjaria, broke away from Georgia. Conflicts broke out, thousands were killed, and the whole region has suffered ever since. The new President of Georgia, who Simon meets in a lift, is trying to re-unify the country, but he faces a difficult task.

Simon travels across the frontline to visit South Ossetia – a self-declared country which has had its own flag, army and government for 12 years. The Ossetian people speak a different language to Georgians, and their government has vowed to fight to the death rather than rejoin the Georgian fold.

Simon persuades a tough Ossetian Foreign Ministry official to let him have a look around. Tensions are high between Georgia and South Ossetia, and the Ossetians are suspicious of foreigners, particularly when a government guide tells locals in the market that Simon’s from London, America. After his nationality is explained people become friendlier, although locals are tense because everyone has someone they love on the dangerous Georgian frontline and war is imminent. Everywhere Simon goes he’s followed by state security.

Back in Georgia proper Simon realises war is close when he finds a troop train packed with soldiers and tanks. He’s chased away by armed guards.

Heading west to the former breakaway region of Adjaria, Simon visits the palatial home of the former dictator. His son used to race a Lambourghini along the main street of the region, much to the anger of locals earning an average £15 a month.

Elsewhere in Georgia, Simon and his BBC crew are the first film unit ever allowed inside a major former Soviet military base. In a chilling scene, they find thousands of tonnes of explosives unguarded and huge working missiles, any of which could be stolen by criminals or terrorists, and which are capable of destroying skyscrapers.

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