Russia’s PM Dmitry Medvedev welcomed “pragmatic stance” of Georgia’s current government and hailed PM Bidzina Ivanishvili for “brave words” on August 2008 war.
Medvedev made the remarks in a lengthy interview with Russian state-run English-language channel Russia Today in which he spoke about August, 2008 war, fifth anniversary of which will be marked this week. Medvedev, who five years ago was the President, also gave a separate interview on the same issue to the Georgian TV channel Rustavi 2, which is scheduled to be aired on August 6.
Like in his previous remarks on the August war, Medvedev reiterated in the interview with the Russia Today that he had to take “tough decision” and send troops in order to defend Russian citizens and peacekeepers in South Ossetia. He also said it was “not the war between Russia and Georgia”, it was “Georgian-Ossetian conflict” in which Russia had to intervene “to force Georgia stop exterminating people”. He again blamed President Saakashvili of launching the war and again called him a “war criminal.” He suggested that Saakashvili decided to attack and take over South Ossetia possibly because of assuming, wrongly, that Russia would not have intervened.
“It’s for the history to make the final verdict. Political verdict into those decisions which Saakashvili took [in lead up to the August war], as it seems to me, has already been delivered by the Georgian people, because his political force [UNM party] suffered a failure,” Medvedev said according to a transcript of the interview with Russia Today posted on the Russian PM’s website on August 4.
Asked about the future of Russia-Georgia ties, Medvedev responded he was “optimistic” because the August war was not a result of a conflict between the Georgian and Russian people, but occurred because of “criminal” actions of Georgian leaders.
“This conflict [referring to August, 2008 war] of course does not contribute to mutual understanding, but this is not a deep conflict between peoples. I repeat that it was a mistake which grew into a crime on the part of certain leaders of [Georgia],” he said.
Medvedev said that situation “is indeed a bit different now”.
He said that Georgia’s new government “is taking much more pragmatic stance.”
“We welcome that,” Medvedev continued. “I just want to remind that Russia has never cut diplomatic ties with Georgia; we are ready to restore them on certain conditions and those [conditions] are simple – recognition of what has happed… I am sure that there will be no turning back to what was before. This most regrettable page of our relations of recent years will be turned and gone together with disappearance of Saakashvili and some other people from the political scene.”
The two countries broke off diplomatic ties after the August, 2008 war. Georgia says it will restore diplomatic relations with Russia only if the latter reverses its recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Medvedev also said that although as a result of “foreign media’s anti-Russian propaganda” initially Russia was portrayed as an aggressor, later it was acknowledged that Russia’s response to Georgia’s attack was “justified.”
“And now, when we have the results of analyses by numerous independent commissions, including Tagliavini’s, everybody recognizes what really happened. Suffice here to recall what Prime Minister Ivanishvili said; as he correctly put it: you were those who provoked everything and unleashed the conflict. It was probably hard for him to say it, but these were brave words,” Medvedev said.
PM Ivanishvili said for number of times in the past that President Saakashvili’s “reckless” policies led to Russian “occupation” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In April he said that “it was unjustifiable to start military actions before Russian [troops] crossed into Georgian borders”; two days later in a written statement he, however, said he had “never stated that Georgia was the aggressor and that Georgia started the war.”
Commenting on Medvedev’s remarks, Georgian PM’s special representative for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, said on August 4: “As it seems we won’t be able to agree with Russia in assessments over the August war for a long time.” He said that Georgia was “a victim of Russian aggression”, but Georgia too “made grave mistakes.”
Asked whether Russia would recognize Georgia’s territorial integrity if Abkhazia and South Ossetia agree to return back to Georgia, Medvedev responded: “Everything in this world depends on decisions made by people and on the political will.”
Responding to the same question he then continued: “Just a while ago we could not have imagined creation of the Customs Union and moving towards the Eurasian Economic Union. These are serious integration unions not only with economic, but also political consequences.”
“Everything will depend on the will of the people, who live in those territories – on the will of the Georgian people and [will depend] on whom they will elect as leaders of their country. It [will depend] on the will of the people of Abkhazia, South Ossetia – they can give any mandate to their [leaders]… We want them to live in peace. It’s up to them to decide what relations they will have with each other – it’s their business, we won’t be influencing on these processes. But of course, we will be defending Russia’s national interests,” Medvedev said.