Georgia honors the fallen, looks to the future
By Salome Modebadze
Thursday, August 9
In the company of Georgia’s Patriarch Ilia II, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili laid a wreath on the memorial representing the fallen heroes who lost their lives during the Georgian-Russian August War of 2008 at Mukhadgverdi Cemetery. August 8, marked the fourth anniversary of the conflict.
Georgia’s first lady, Sandra Roelofs, also attended the special ceremony for the soldiers and expressed her deep condolence towards their families. Machine-gunner Shmagi Khaligauri, 19, was among the 169 soldiers, 188 civilians and 16 policemen who sacrificed their lives for the country in August of 2008. The father of two fallen heroes, Muraz Romelashvili, expressed his pride that his sons sacrificed their lives for their country.
Government members, oppositionists and NGOs expressed their respect to the soldiers killed in the August War throughout the country. Iveri Subeliani, the First Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff of the Georgian Armed Forces, promised that Georgia will never forget its heroes. Leader of Our Georgia – Free Democrats and Georgian Dream coalition member, Irakli Alasania, expressed his respect towards the soldiers. “We are obliged to protect their families and the new heroes,” he said and wished that Georgia would never face such an “aggressive war” as they did four-years ago.
Recollecting the tragic events of August 2008, young members of the Georgian Dream emphasized the importance of the soldiers’ selflessness. Promising to achieve peace in the country, the young activists promised to do everything they could to fulfil the dreams of the families of the fallen soldiers and unite the country.
Condemning Russia for violating the international norms and principles against Georgian territories, the Ministry of Internally Displaced People from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees of Georgia, expressed their respect towards the fallen heroes and stressed they will continue taking care of IDPs.
Visiting the National Defence Academy in Gori to pay the tribute to the soldiers and civilians on Thursday, President Saakashvili promised to restore Georgia’s unity and return IDPs to their homes.
Comparing the August War with Russia’s earlier occupations, Saakashvili said this time Georgia’s northern neighbors were not able to change Georgia’s foreign policy by hanging their own flag over Georgia.
Although we cannot say that Georgia has won the war until the Russian militarists vacate Georgian territory, Saakashvili did promise that Abkhazia and South Ossetia will soon be released “from the danger of national extinction” and “they will have a chance to decide their own destiny and choose a course of development acceptable for them.”
According to Saakashvili, Russia has failed in all the three strategic goals it had defined in August 2008: to overthrow the Georgian government, to destroy Georgia’s geopolitical importance and hinder Georgia’s integration into NATO. “[But] we chose the way of resistance with our soldiers, the international community and European leaders who supported the Georgian people,” he said stressing that Russia will never win over Georgia.
“The Kremlin may have lots of dreams regarding Georgia, but the Georgian people have their own future plan,” Saakashvili said, adding that when Russia finally forgets the ‘Soviet idea’, rejects “empirical fantasies” and starts building a democratic country, Georgia will make compromises, but never sacrifice its national interests.
Saakashvili believes that Russia’s Soviet dream aims at “breaking Georgia from inside.”
“Georgian history remembers many Georgians who demanded reconciliation with their occupants, but we cannot remember any occupants that have assisted us in something,” he said, confident that if Georgia makes any concessions to Russia, Georgia’s statehood will be in question.