President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dear comrade officers!
First of all I would like to thank you for your honourable performance of military duty during the peacekeeping mission. The work was carried out effectively and was in the interests of the people of the Russian Federation. The targets set during the operation were fully achieved. Soldiers who were directly involved in the peacekeeping operations and who are well aware of the magnitude of the tragedy that occurred in South Ossetia are here today.
Let us call things what they are: the people of South Ossetia have survived a genocide and we need to say it. To heal these wounds will take years, maybe decades. And the actions we took to halt the extermination of almost an entire people were legitimate, inevitable and absolutely justified, not to mention the fact that the protection of its people, of its citizens, is the direct duty of the Russian state. And peacekeeping forces performed accurately in full accordance with the tasks they were given.
There are casualties among the Russian peacekeepers caught in the heat of aggression. Yesterday was a day of mourning in Russia, and I ask once again that you convey our deepest condolences to the relatives and friends of the victims. I would like you to know at once that we will provide them with all necessary support. The families of the soldiers who sacrificed their lives for their homeland should receive the utmost attention from the state. I am instructing the Minister of Defence to prepare a full list to take the necessary decisions concerning their welfare.
On 12 August 2008 we announced the end of operations forcing the Georgian authorities to restore peace. That same day we adopted Statement on the Principles of Conflict Resolution, that is a basis for the agreement which we still have to sign and principles which were just agreed to by the South Ossetian and Abkhazian parties. Russia, the EU and the OSCE will guarantee this agreement. I would like to specially underline to you, as defenders of your country, that no declaration will be able to replace this binding document, and we will insist on this. The Georgian side has been evasive about this for many years and it must be done now, after the massacre which occurred. Our current goal remains a definitive ceasefire by Georgia and the withdrawal of their troops to their permanent positions, which is also provided for in the principles.
As you know perfectly well, the situation in South Ossetia remains very difficult. In this regard, we are obliged to keep our peacekeepers in a state of constant preparedness. This is an obvious way of deterring the Georgian side and, in addition, a way of dealing with the critical conditions of the humanitarian disaster and its consequences that we now face.
Everyone who works in the region, irrespective of their nationality or which state they belong to, now needs security they can rely on. At the same time, we will naturally use the entire arsenal of diplomatic means necessary for further settlement. And, of course, the state will do its utmost to strengthen the army and navy, to modernise the Armed Forces and to ensure social guarantees for military personnel.
Once again I thank you and your comrades for your courage. A few minutes ago I signed the first decree on state awards. Naturally I will meet with those who are not here in this room, those who in the frontlines defended the ideals of peacekeeping and the interests of Russia. You have participated in a noble operation, saving defenceless people who were treacherously attacked. I am confident that you will continue to protect the lives and interests of Russian citizens, and to carry out your civilian, military and human duties.