Russia never had the goal of overthrowing the regime of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili but at stopping the conflict, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told Russian and Georgian media on Friday.
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.
“Our mission was not to capture Tbilisi or any other city in Georgia,” Medvedev said speaking during an interview with Russian and Georgian media ahead of the third tense anniversary of the conflict. “Our only objective was to halt the invasion that Saakashvili had unleashed,” he continued.
“I believe that the peace enforcement operation, which took five days, was a mission accomplished.”
“Besides, I’m neither a judge nor an executioner. I’d like to stress once again that it is up to the people of Georgia to assess Saakashvili and decide his fate through a democratic vote. Well, maybe they could also use other means, the way it sometimes happens in history. But deposing Saakashvili by force wasn’t on my agenda back then, and I can tell you earnestly I still think it was the right decision. Even though it would’ve been a piece of cake.”
The Russian leader said it was up to the 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.
Medvedev said Russia’s goal was to “stop the war machine which was at the time aimed at two breakaway territories” and at citizens.
The Russian leader said the Medvedev-Sarkozy ceasefire plan was to stop the war as soon as possible and it worked well.
“The Medvedev-Sarkozy plan was carried out and it was successful,” Medvedev said.
However, he added that French President Nicolas Sarkozy “was not involved in the work on the decree to recognize the two republics.”
Medvedev said Russia would support negotiations between Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“I would be very happy if the Georgian, Abkhaz and South Ossetian authorities went to the negotiating table to discuss how they would continue living side by side,” Medvedev said. “How peace and security would be enforced in the region; what the future holds for their closely-related peoples; what they could create together. I would be happy if it came to that. Russia would never obstruct such negotiations.”