President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: I believe that the recollections of the night of August 7 to 8 last year will remain the most vivid for me for all my life, and at the same time, undoubtedly, very dramatic. Of course, up to now I have been carrying with me a whole set of recollections of that period, my phone conversations with the Defense Minister who reported to me on the current situation, and sequence of our decisions, and our responses to the outrageous aggression that was unleashed in the night of August 7 to 8, 2008.
Apparently, each time I remember these events, I scroll backwards, as they say, this tape and realize that on the one hand, we had no other choice in that situation. On the other hand, the events were unfolding under the worst-case scenario, probably, the most sorrowful scenario. There are very few really dramatic episodes in life of any person, and in life of a national leader, which is probably good because the decisions to be made in the given circumstances are hard, let alone their consequences.
As I review in my mind the events that took place last August, particularly that night, I recall that until the very last minute we believed that the Georgian regime could have been fair enough and, deep in its mind, decent or, at least, wise enough to avoid those terrible mistakes that would take a heavy toll, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, would have the most dramatic geopolitical impact. Unfortunately, it was our misjudgment. The regime of Saakashvili eventually made all those mistakes, which led to crime and brought losses – huge losses – of human lives. Hence, the Russian Federation was to harshly respond to them, thus saving hundreds and thousands of lives and restoring peace in the Caucasus that was at serious risk.
Recalling that night, that difficult situation constituted a personal choice, an important moment of reflection, a moment of weighing the pros and cons, as I was the only one to take all decisions. Consultations facilitate nothing, as the only person, the President, is responsible for all decisions and steps taken. That was in fact what occurred that night.
While Defense Minister kept me informed, I pondered on the information and made decisions. It was, probably, the hardest thing, but, eventually, we did it right. We were very accurate in our actions, and the decisions that I made as the Commander-in-Chief were efficient. Above all – they helped to protect human lives.
With that in mind, recalling that night I make out that our country generally got through in a responsible and decent manner, although it was quite a challenge. I don't need to be ashamed of those days, since it was a very critical period for our state and we chose our way – we made it honestly, we made it responsibly.
I had never been to Tskhinval before my first official presidential visit to a new country, the Republic of South Ossetia. The situation there is very complex, indeed. The population of the Republic is very poor, and lots of problems and challenges have accumulated over almost two decades of the blockade.
However, both the Republic's people and leadership are willing to overcome these hardships. Certainly, we will help them in addressing these problems, we will implement support and aid programmes and develop investment projects. We will guarantee the security of this nation and help them to ensure their safety, as well as assist them in addressing a number of pressing economic issues.
So, basically all these subjects are now within our common competence, as South Ossetia and Russia have made a special treaty, a treaty of friendship, mutual assistance and military cooperation, and now we are going to deal with all these respective matters. Someone may like it or not, but we will develop full-scale relations with both South Ossetia and Abkhazia. For us, it is not a matter of opportunism, but a matter of decisions that we have made and that we will implement.
As for the people's attitude, it is special. I will not conceal it that, of course, personally it was very important to me because when I arrived I saw their faces, and I saw the way they treat Russia and welcome the President of the Russian Federation. One can say or write many different things here, but neither of them will reflect the emotions, which are very simple in fact – the sense of gratitude and the feeling that Russia stood up for this small nation. To feel that, one has to be there with those common people and to talk to those who have come out into the streets, with tears in their eyes and the feeling of gratitude, though a year has already passed since those tragic events. I will never be able to forget that.