Speaking at a joint news conference with the U.S. Secretary of State on August 15 in Tbilisi, President Saakashvili lashed out at “most of the European countries” for their “muted and quiet” reaction to what he called was Russia’s preparation of Georgia’s invasion in recent months.
In an emotional speech He said those troops attacking Georgia were “barbarians of 21st century.” “All these could have been prevented; we were screaming, shouting to the world that Russia was going to do it,” he said.
Below are extracts from his opening remarks at the news conference:
As we speak now, significant part Georgian territories remain under foreign military occupation.
You might have heard reports that some Russian APCs were dislocated to move closely to the capital and are on halfway between Gori and Tbilisi.
Before focusing on today’s ceasefire agreement, I still would like to draw your attention to the events that preceded the whole invasion and occupation.
Well, when in April in Bucharest Georgia was denied the membership action plan by some members of NATO, I warned western media that it [denial to grant MAP] was asking for trouble. Not only they denied us membership action plan, but they specifically told the world that they are denying Georgia membership action plan because of existing territorial conflicts in Georgia, basically inviting the trouble.
And I told the world this is the worst thing one could say to the Russians that there will be no NATO until there are conflicts and more there are conflicts less there will be offered the NATO.
And immediately after April, immediately after Bucharest – and I can tell you now that Russians perceived Bucharest – and I mentioned it and then some of the western commentators made fun of me, saying this hot-headed Saakashvili tells this rubbish again.
I told them Russia perceives it as new Munich. Bucharest was perceived by them as new Munich. And what happened was that immediately they started build-up of the infrastructure in Abkhazia, immediately they started to bring in railway troops to build railway in depopulated, ethnically cleansed areas of Abkhazia, cynically claiming that they were doing this for humanitarian purposes.
And I shouted to the world that this is for bringing tanks. They built tanks bases all over Abkhazia and in South Ossetia in place of Java.
They started to bring in lots of military specialists, reconnaissance, they brought in paratroopers.
Again we screamed to the world Stop It.
There were some statements from Washington, but I have to tell you, most of the European countries, with some remarkable exceptions, there was pretty muted and quiet reaction and Russians were carefully watching this reaction, they were doing step by step, first some infrastructure, then some additional troops, then some legal acts, then again infrastructure, again some intrusion and wait watching carefully what Europeans have to say, watching carefully what would be a counter-reaction of the international community.
And it really did not follow.
Madam Secretary, whereas we were standing here last time, few weeks ago there was intrusion of Russian planes into the Georgian airspace, just exactly in the lines of South Ossetia.
And you remember as well as I do that then we downplayed, I downplayed it myself – I said, well, they are here just to salute Secretary Rice.
But that time they said: Yes, this is us, we flew there, implying that it was intent to bomb against Georgians and again they watched European reaction – no European countries said anything about it.
So, who invited the trouble here, who invited this arrogance here, who invited these innocent deaths here, not only those people, who perpetrate them, are responsible but also those people, who failed to stop that. Who is now trying to look forth for an excuse saying “you know Georgians might have started it.”
Excuse me, 1,200 tanks came into Georgia within few hours. There is no way you can mobilize those tanks in such a fast period unless you are ready.
There were all these movements on the ground, all around the place. You know, when it’s all started I wanted the world to know, I was going for holidays, my defense minister was going for a holidays. When the things started I had to rush back, cut my holidays short. When the tensions raised I had to summon back our defense minister, most of our officials were gone, most of decision makers I tried to reach were gone for vacations. It was brilliantly selected timing for this intervention.
Unfortunately, today we are looking evil directly in the eye. And today this evil is very strong, very nasty and very dangerous for everybody, not only for us.
That is what we learnt, but together this can be and will be only the first chapter. Let us write the next chapter together and write this historic new chapter of the world for the world.
We want them out. I want the world to know – never ever will Georgia reconcile with occupation of even one square kilometer of its sovereign territory, never ever.
There is a strong force led by former KGB worriers, those tanks that were taken out of Afghanistan, of eastern Europe, now are rolling back again into other countries.
Georgia was the first one to take their hit, but they are on the roll, they are arrogant, they will not stop.
But I can tell you – never ever my small nation of Georgia that has already gone through seventy years of subjugation by these barbarians, of 20th century then and 21st century now in exactly the similar circumstances – in 1921 Russia claimed that Georgia attacked one of its minorities, entered Georgia from the east and occupied Georgia for seventy years and we were in seventy years of communism, slavery and humiliation.
I grew up with the idea that it should never happen again. I wept when Berlin wall came down.
I thought that former KGB people were gone for good. On that one I was wrong.
But on one I was never wrong and I will never be wrong and I will be strong on it together with my people – you saw huge rally in downtown Tbilisi two days ago – never ever we will surrender, never ever we will give up our freedom and independence, never ever we will give any piece of our territory and freedom will go to every part of Georgia, to every ethnic group, to every community in Georgia and we will definitely get rid of these invaders for good. I am totally convinced on that one.