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TSKHINVAL, August 9 (Itar-Tass) —— Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said the operation to force Georgia to stop the aggression against South Ossetia in August 2008 was “absolutely timely”.
He said assertions about a delay were a lie.
“All decisions that were necessary were made precisely when they had to be made,” Medvedev told the press on Wednesday, August 8. “I believe that these decisions concerned a foreign state that until August 26 we recognised as Georgia. Yes, we had relations with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but we called for restoration of territorial integrity even though we understood that it was practically impossible.”
“These decisions could be made only in the event of direct aggression against Russian citizens and Russian peacekeepers. This happened on the night from August 7 to August 8. I can tell you that I made the decision two and a half hours after the Georgian army had started its actions: neither earlier because it would be have been wrong since it was the decision to use the Russian Armed Forces in foreign territory, nor later,” the prime minister said.
He admitted that he was surprised by comments made by some of the former military commanders about the events in South Ossetia in a film circulated on the Internet, who claimed that it had taken too much time to make the decision.
“I did not saw that film but I saw some comments and pieces on the Internet. I do not know who authored or who ordered it. In fact it features some generals who had been either dismissed from the Armed Forces by the time of South Ossetian events or were in active duty, but it’s hard for me to comment on the motives for their interviews. Actually, I did not hear anything supernatural there, except for some comments made by former chief of the General Staff, a leading military strategist, who served mainly in Moscow and who had been dismissed by me as chief of the General Staff and transferred to the Security Council by the time of the events in South Ossetia (and for some reason, when he was on the Security Council he made no comments but felt the urge to do so after he had left it),” Medvedev said and regretted that “people have such a short memory”.
“I was surprised by some comments that it took so long to make the decision. That’s a lie! I made the decision to deliver a missile strike at 4 a.m. Those who say otherwise either do not know the real facts or intentionally distort [them] even if they were in service at that time,” he said.
The prime minister stressed that he was responsible for the decision. “There is only one person who makes such decisions and that person was me – the supreme commander-in-chief and president of the country. No other consultations on this issue could be conducted and none were. As for my discussions with Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin], I talked with him for the first time in the evening of August 8,” he said, adding that Putin, who was prime minister at that time, was in Beijing at the opening of the Olympic Games.
“But it’s not important who talked with whom and when. What is important is which decisions had to be made and when. I can say absolutely firmly: I am convinced that the decision to use force in return in the situation that had developed in South Ossetia by that time was made by me and the Armed Forces precisely when it had to be made. Otherwise, we would have failed to solve the tasks that had to be solved at that time. But we did solve them at minimum cost. Had those decisions been made later, the situation might have been absolutely different,” Medvedev said.
He recalled that a civil war was virtually on in South Ossetia for 20 years. “It was a place of permanent tensions; we felt that and tried to help resolve the conflict. Unfortunately, this did not discourage Mr. [Georgian President Mikhail] Saakashvili who had decided to strike, thus cutting off large chunks from his country and basically tearing his homeland apart,” the prime minister said.