Medvedev: Russia would act the same way again in Georgia

Georgia Materials 15 August 2008 19:21 (UTC +04:00)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev insisted Russia's military action in Georgia in recent days was necessary to protect its citizens and warned that if pressed Russia would respond in the same way again, reported dpa.

"If our peacekeeping troops and our citizens are attacked, we will respond in the future in the same way that we have responded. Let there be no doubt about this," Medvedev said after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Black Sea resort of Sochi Friday.

Medvedev insisted that Russia was "the guarantor of security in the Caucasus and the region" and that Russian troops would remain in Georgia.

The Russian president expressed renewed support for the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, where Russian troops are stationed.

"After what has happened, Ossetians and Abkhaz will scarcely be able to live in one state with the Georgians," he said.

Merkel described Russia's military action in sending troops into South Ossetia and further into central Georgia around the city of Gori as "in some aspects disproportionate."

But she acknowledged some of the Russian actions were reasonable. "Both sides are probably to blame," she said.

The German chancellor called for Russian troops to withdraw from central Georgia to the sites set out in a six-point European Union plan put forward by President Nicolas Sarkozy under France's EU presidency.

Sarkozy travelled to Moscow and the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on Tuesday and Wednesday to broker a cessation in the hostilities and to sketch a programme for a lasting ceasefire.

Merkel stressed the need for both peacekeepers and observers to be stationed in the crisis region.

She noted that there was a democratically elected government in Tbilisi and insisted that each country had the right to decide whether it wanted to apply for membership of NATO, the US-led Western alliance.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has set a clear course for NATO membership, against strong objections from Moscow.

In a clear attack on Saakashvili, Medvedev said the main issue was to "restore peace and to ensure that nobody again has such idiotic ideas."

"We have the impression that Saakashvili is opposed to the diplomacy of the past 15 years," the Russian president said.

But he also said Russia wanted good relations with the EU and the United States. "We don't want a long- or short-term warming of relations with the European Union, with the United States, or with other countries," he said.

Both leaders regretted the victims in the conflict, with Merkel calling for international observers and aid to be allowed into Georgia.

In remarks published as Merkel was heading for Sochi, Russia's ambassador to Berlin, Vladimir Kotenev, told the mass-circulation German newspaper Bild that Medvedev would present evidence to Merkel of Georgian atrocities.

"Women and children were murdered, churches packed with refugees set alight and entire villages razed," he told the paper

Merkel said evidence had been presented but this was unnecessary as "every war is terrible."

Ahead of the visit, Merkel made clear that Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity had to be respected, echoing the line taken by US President George W Bush.

As Merkel was meeting Medvedev, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Tbilisi.

Merkel is to travel to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi on Sunday to hold talks with Saakashvili.