President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon comrades!
It is just ten days since the dramatic events that took place when you had to face the insidious, well-prepared attack of the Georgian regular army. In extremely difficult circumstances, you thwarted this large-scale aggression, while efficiently and courageously carrying out peace enforcement operations in South Ossetia.
I want to thank you and thank in your name the entire contingent of Russian peacekeepers for your dedication, dignity in the execution of your military duty, for having defended our citizens and having stood up to those who brought destruction and death to the people of the republic.
Here are the officers and enlisted men who, at the epicentre of terrible events, showed true heroism, composure and restraint. You have been engaged in fierce fighting for every house and every life.
Under a hale of bullets in the burning ruins of Tskhinvali, you gave no thought to yourselves and, in carrying out your military duties, showed that you were well aware that you were indeed the last hope of defenceless people. Your valour and ability to function in a critical situation saved a large number of human lives.
In the heavy fighting many of your comrades were killed. Their lives were cut short. They are real heroes. They died defending peace-loving people, cut down by the shrapnel and the bullets meant for the elderly, the women and the children.
What the Georgian authorities have done is beyond human understanding. It cannot be justified and it certainly cannot be left unpunished. The world has seen that in our own day political monsters still exist, ready to kill the innocent and the defenceless in pursuit of their own interests, people who, as a result of their own lack of ability to resolve some difficult problems, sought to compensate for it in the most terrible way, by destroying an entire people. I think that the historical analogy here is absolutely obvious, and this must not be forgiven.
We will ensure that this crime does not go unpunished, and will continue to take a firm line on security throughout the region, guaranteeing the participation of Russia in ensuring peace and stability in South Ossetia. And we will do what has to be done in this regard, let no one have any illusions on that score.
In these terrible days each one of you has looked death in the face. Of course there are many of you that I could single out, but first and foremost I want to mention those who have been awarded the title Hero of Russia. The first is Major Denis Vasilyevich Vetchinov: at the cost of his own life he exposed himself to enemy fire, saving the life of his commander and those of some nearby journalists. For his great personal courage he has been posthumously awarded the title Hero of Russia. His memory will live forever in our hearts and in the hearts of those he saved.
The Gold Star of the Hero of Russia is also awarded to Lieutenant Colonel Konstantin Anatolevich Timerman. Despite his wounds, this fearless officer refused to leave the battlefield and, badly outnumbered, continued to engage the enemy. He is now in hospital, and we wish him a speedy recovery.
I would like to note that today for the first time in modern Russian history the Order of St George and the St George Cross are being awarded to soldiers participating in peacekeeping operations. These medals of honour were reinstated in 2000 for those who distinguish themselves in battle against foreign aggressors. However, by way of reviving the glorious traditions of the cavaliers of the Order of St George, I have decided to give out these awards for the maintenance of international peace and security in the territory of another state. Today officers, enlisted men and sergeants who have flawlessly fulfilled their military duties will become cavaliers of the Order of St George and the St George Cross (fourth degree).