Monday, August 18, 2008

"Cross Us & We Will Crush You"

President Dimitry Medvedev delivered his most hawkish statement yet in the current Georgian crisis today when he warned that any further aggression against Russian citizens would prompt a "crushing response".

Mr Medvedev, the former technocrat who is generally seen as the more conciliatory voice of the Kremlin duumvirate, told Second World War veterans in the Russian city of Kursk that Russia had the power to counter any threat against its citizens.

His statement came as Russia appeared to be dragging its heels in withdrawing its troops from Georgia amid growing international demands that it implements a ceasefire deal signed last week.

Vladimir Putin's mastery checkmates the West
Michael Binyon says Russia has been biding its time - but its victory in Georgia has been brutal and brilliant

“If anyone thinks that they can kill our citizens and escape unpunished, we will never allow this. If anyone tries this again, we will come out with a crushing response,” Mr Medvedev said, according to Reuters.

“We have all the necessary resources, political, economic and military. If anyone had any illusions about this, they have to abandon them."

Fighting erupted in South Ossetia after Georgia mounted an offensive ten days ago to regain control of the breakaway Russian-backed region.

The move prompted Russia's biggest military deployment outside its borders since the collapse of the Soviet Union and saw Georgian forces routed as the Russian army moved into Georgia proper.

Under the terms of a French-brokered ceasefire, both sides have to withdraw to their positions before the conflict.

However Tony Halpin, a Times correspondent, said that Russian troops were still manning checkpoints on the road from Tbilisi to the strategic town of Gori near the border with the disputed enclave of South Ossetia, where the conflict erupted 10 days ago.

Mr Medvedev's statement will be seen as a warning not just to Georgia against any further military action in South Ossetia or breakaway Abkhazia but other former Soviet republics including the Baltic states, which have large and restive Russian minorities.

Mr Medvedev, facing his first international crisis since taking over the Kremlin’s top job in May from Vladimir Putin, said that Russia did not want to spoil relations with anyone but demanded respect.

“We do not want a deterioration of international relations, we want to be respected. We want our people, our values to be respected,” he said.

“We have always been a peace-loving state. Practically there is not a single occasion in the history of the Russian or Soviet state when we first started military actions. We have not attacked anyone, we only secured the rights and dignity of people as peacekeepers.”

No comments: