Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has dismissed claims that Moscow was gearing up for the 2008 war with Georgia and said he “will never forgive” Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili for the deaths of Russians caught up in the conflict.
Russia fought a brief war against Tbilisi’s forces in August 2008 when Georgia tried to retake its breakaway region of South Ossetia by force. In the aftermath, it and nearby Abkhazia were recognized by Russia, although only a few other countries followed suit.
Speaking during an interview with Russian and Georgian media ahead of the third tense anniversary of the conflict, Medvedev said Saakashvili’s claims that Russia was preparing for the five-day war was “total bunk.”
“Saakashvili generally does a lot of talking, and he often loses control of what he is saying,” he said.
“Conflicts have never resulted in anything good. If we had managed to prevent this war, it would have been to everyone’s benefit, and Georgia’s in the first place,” Medvedev went on.
“The fact that it didn’t happen is a real tragedy. And in my opinion, only one person is responsible for this… and that man is the president of Georgia.”
Medvedev accused the Georgian leader of ordering the killing of hundreds of Russian nationals, including peacekeepers.
“I will never forgive him for that, and I will not talk to him,” he said, adding: “He should actually be thankful to me for halting our troops at some point. If they had marched into Tbilisi, Georgia would most likely have a different president by now.”
The Russian leader said it was up to Georgian people to decide whether they want to keep Saakashvili in his post, adding however that “sooner or later” he would have to go.
“And whoever becomes the next president in Georgia, they will have a chance to restore positive and beneficial relations with Russia,” he said.
“If not for this dimwit gamble of 2008, we could have kept up our dialogue for years, despite all of its political complexities, and we could have eventually arrived at a solution that would be acceptable for everybody, including the Georgians and the population of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”
When asked whether Moscow was planning on easing its visa regime with Georgia, Medvedev said he would “gladly do that tomorrow” but complained that there was “no one to negotiate with.”
On July 29, the U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a resolution calling on Russia to respect Georgia’s territorial integrity and to withdraw its troops from the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia said the resolution was “no more than a PR move” that encouraged Georgia’s “revanchist sentiments.”