As they fled, rumors rose like smoke and clouded the air: Cossack, Ossetian and Chechen “irregulars” had razed Georgian villages, committed mass rapes, rounded up all the young people and marched them off to a concentration camp. Women vowed to drink poison rather than be captured alive.
On the other side, Ossetians and Russians said Georgian shells had leveled Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, and targeted Ossetian villages for destruction, killing thousands.
Exaggerated claims from both governments fed the panic.
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