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Medvedev said resorting to war was a hard decision

By Ana Robakidze
Monday, August 5
Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev said he had to make the most difficult decision in August 2008, during the Russian-Georgian war. "I remember how difficult it was for me to make a decision. This was absolutely the most difficult decision I have ever had to make." Medvedev said in his interview with Russia Today.

Medvedev said Russia never aimed to attack Georgia. However, as Medvedev said when he saw that the situation escalated and Georgian troops attacked South Ossetia, he had to take some actions. "It became clear that those were not just minor provocations but a full-blown attack, intended to turn the situation in South Ossetia around by force and overthrow its government... I had to make a decision, a very difficult decision. I had to give the order to open fire on Georgian troops," the Russian PM said.

In the interview Medvedev stated that he believes President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, was preparing to attack South Ossetia. He said drastically increasing Georgia's Defense budget and boosting its military might served as the proof. The Russian PM explained that attacking other cities of Georgia was a necessity caused by the war, which usually requires destroying the enemy's military targets. Medvedev claimed that Russia never tried to attack civilian targets. "Our goal was to disable military targets, including airports, so that the enemy would not be able to fly jets out, transport military equipment and hardware, etc," PM stated.

On the journalist's question whether the official Moscow had a plan to topple of Saakashvili, Medvedev replied that the Russian government never had any thoughts of "changing the ruling regime" in Georgia, otherwise it would have been a violation of the UN charter. The Russian PM said the Georgian people have to deal with their own leaders, but Saakashvili will always be considered by the Russian government as a war criminal. He also commented on the new government of the country and said that Georgian authorities now act in a more pragmatic way.

"Everything in this world depends on the decisions made by people and on their political will," Medvedev said, answering the reporter's question about the possibility of Georgia's territorial integrity being restored and Russia to support and recognize it, after Saakashvili steps down and if new political leaders find a way to develop relations with South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The Russian PM stated that "the choice lays with the people who live there, the people of Georgia and the leaders they elect. The people of Abkhazia and the people of South Ossetia have the power to give their leaders any kind of mandate, and this will be constitutional and in line with universally-recognized international practices." He added that Moscow will not interfere with the processes, but will defend Russia’s national interests.

Georgian officials already commented on Medvedev's interview and his assessment of the August War. According to Prime Minister's special representative for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, it does not seem that Georgia and Russia will ever be able to achieve an agreement about the war in 2008, but it is vital to overcome this deadlock situation and step-by-step, try to settle the relations with Russia.

Abashidze said Georgia had made dramatic mistakes, but still it became a victim of Russian aggression and that all the August events were most objectively evaluated in the so-called Tagliavini report, which analyzes the war's historical roots, consequences and causes.

Mamuka Areshidze, Chairman of the Caucasus Center for Strategic Research said, even though military actions in the region of South Ossesia were provoked by the Georgian government, Russia was the one to start the war in August and Medvedev will of course never recognize this fact. According to Areshidze, in his interviews the Russian PM always tries to avoid the questions about Russia's responsibility in the lead-up to the war with Georgia.

Representatives of the Georgian opposition do not see anything new in Medvedev's statements and say Russia continues to follow the same rhetoric.