Saturday, December 27, 2008

Moscow admits it prepared for August war

On December 24, Russia''s President Dmitry Medvedev gave a year's end televised interview in which, among other things, he changed the Kremlin's standard account of the beginning of the recent war with Georgia, the version which has been current ever since the events of August. Whereas before the conflict was portrayed by Moscow as a totally unprovoked and unforeseen attack, Medvedev now for the first time admitted that Russian forces had been preparing for the war in advance. Speaking in the traditional language of Moscow state propaganda, Medvedev said:

“We of course were assuming that not everything was OK with our neighbor’s [referring to Georgia] brains – though we did not expect it was to such degree,” Medvedev said in an interview with Russia’s three main television stations.

“Taking into consideration that they [Georgians] were preparing for that [military actions] – I has once spoken about it – at some point I felt, that our Georgian counterpart [referring to President Saakashvili] simply stopped communicating with the Russian Federation. Before that he was requesting: let’s meet, discuss, have negotiations in Sochi; but then he just walked away from communication. At that point I started to suspect that he had decided to carry out forceful action,” Medvedev said in the interview.

“So, of course, we were preparing for that,” he continued. “And I think that as a result of those preparatory measures, which were carried out [by Russia], losses of the operation were minimal. The Russian army has destroyed the Georgian military infrastructure. At the same time [the Russian army] avoided actions, which could have been of inhuman nature.”   

Not surprisingly, Georgian government representatives were quick to point out that this amounted to a remarkable concession on Moscow's part. The Georgian interior minister called it a "Christmas present", while the foreign minister, Grigol Vashadze, described it as a "plea of guilty":

“Of course Russia was preparing and then carried out aggression against Georgia,” Vano Merabishvili told journalists on December 25. “It is difficult to hide this information. After foreign journalists, including through our assistance, disclosed disinformation disseminated by some so called foreign experts and foreign observers and after the entire world has seen that Russia was getting ready [for aggression against Georgia], Russia simply had to admit it and this is yet another fact that Georgia has become a victim of a pre-planned aggression.”

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