President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dear comrades,
We have gathered here at the Kremlin to honour Russian servicepersons who showed courage and heroism during the tragic events in South Ossetia, and to remember the feats of those who gave their lives.
When the regular Georgian army, equipped with the latest foreign arms, unleashed a hail of fire on Tskhinvali, Russian soldiers and officers did not flinch and rose up to stop the aggressor. There were literally only minutes in which to act. The slightest delay could have led to even more deaths. You defended the lives of our citizens, protected Russia’s dignity and showed your best professional and personal qualities.
I repeat once again that our actions were absolutely lawful and complied in full with international law and our peacekeeping obligations. I stress this point – unlike the regime in Tbilisi, which overturned all past agreements in an instant and brought the region to the brink of catastrophe.
Our public and our army shared common trials and common goals during those difficult days. Before the events of August 8, few could have believed it possible that a full-scale military adventure would be unleashed before the world very eyes, with the objective of wiping out an entire people.
Something else has become clear today: a world where peacekeepers are shot at, where the regular army carries out ethnic cleansing, where criminal regimes can obtain protection and information about the real state of affairs is constantly blocked is an absolutely unreliable world. It is clear that the existing collective security mechanism has broken down, and therefore, alongside our political efforts on the international stage, we will also strengthen our country’s defence capability. It is our duty to provide reliable protection to Russia’s democracy, sovereignty, and our citizens’ right to a peaceful life.
Dear friends, almost two months have passed now since the war in South Ossetia, but the consequences will make themselves felt for a long time yet and the spiritual wounds of the people who lived through these terrible events will be a long time healing.
We have helped and will continue to help the Ossetian people rebuild and do everything possible to ensure stable peace for these two new states, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. This is our duty and we will never forget those who gave their lives to save peaceful people.
Here today are officers and soldiers who were at the epicentre of the aggression. I thank you for your faultless performance of your military duties and for the courage and professionalism you showed in carrying out your mission. Each of you was able to mobilise your experience, knowledge and strength and take the competent action needed to make the peacekeeping mission a success. Of course, I would like to say something about everyone present here today in my speech, but I will start by naming those who have been awarded the title of Hero of Russia.
The Hero of the Russian Federation Gold Star is awarded to tank company commander Captain Yury Pavlovich Yakovlev and tank commander Sergeant Sergei Andreyevich Mylnikov. In a fierce battle they attacked the Georgian forces’ battle orders and destroyed weapons depots and several enemy armoured vehicles. The title of Hero of Russia is awarded to Lieutenant-Colonel Konstantin Anatolyevich Timerman. Even though wounded, he remained on the battlefield and continued to fight against an enemy force superior in numbers. Konstantin Anatolyevich was only recently discharged from hospital and we wish him a speedy recovery.
The Hero of Russia Gold Star is awarded to Colonel Gennady Vladimirovich Anashkin and Lieutenant-Colonel Andrei Leonidovich Krasov for their brave and decisive action during the peacekeeping operations.
Also with us today is paratroops special-forces officer and Hero of the Russian Federation Anatoly Vasilyevich Lebed. He was at the knife-edge of the attack during the operations and showed unfailing personal courage. Lieutenant-Colonel Lebed is awarded the Order of St. George IV class.
The Medal ‘For Courage’ is awarded to medical instructors with the peacekeeping battalion Sergeant Zukhra Mukhanbievna Tramova and Junior Sergeant Maya Grigorievna Bestayeva. These truly heroic women helped the wounded under a hail of fire right at the combat position. Their skilled action saved dozens of human lives.
Dear comrades, I have named only a few names, but Russia is deservedly proud of every one of you who is receiving a decoration today.
Once again, I congratulate you on your high decorations, and I wish you good health, success in your service and prosperity for your families. Thank you for your service to Russia.
Dmitry Medvedev: Dear comrades, dear friends,
I want to thank you sincerely once more for your service and for everything you did at this difficult moment for our country.
It is very clear that almost two months ago our country faced the choice of doing nothing and closing its eyes to gross violations of international obligations and the deaths of our people, including our peacekeepers, or taking resolute action to stop the aggression. We chose the latter and we were right. It was at this moment that we showed that Russia is a country that can stand up for its citizens and that other countries will have to take into account, including countries that hide behind friendship with other stronger powers. We will not tolerate arbitrariness. If need be, we will use different means to protect our interests. Our emphasis is on political means, of course, political negotiations, and this reflects our peaceful foreign policy. But we cannot close our eyes to what is happening.
One more point I want to make: the world changed after August this year. We have witnessed the collapse of the old world order and we are now seeing the emergence of a new and we hope safer and fairer world order. Russia’s actions in August this year to save the people of South Ossetia and protect our citizens and our country’s interests are evidence of this.
It is my great pleasure to thank you for what you have done, because were it not for your sense of duty and your service at this difficult hour, history could have taken a different turn. We are proud of you!
Thank you for your service. We are counting on you!