President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Comrade sergeants, comrade soldiers, comrade officers, dear friends,
Today I am here to thank you, servicemen of the 58th Army, once again for your heroic service, and to reiterate our determination to continue to protect the peaceful life of the Ossetian people, of all the peoples in the Caucasus.
Today – August 8 – is a tragic date for modern history. Exactly one year ago a barbaric aggression against the citizens of South Ossetia and Russian peacekeepers took place: the city Tskhinval was shot at, civilians were killed, thousands of people were victims of a humanitarian disaster. Elderly people, children and women were all left without shelter. Overnight many years of efforts to resolve the situation in South Ossetia were wiped out, the rules of international law were trampled on.
Everything that happened at that time is beyond the realm of human comprehension. The goal which Tbilisi officially set itself was extremely cynical: the destruction or, even better, the expulsion of the people of South Ossetia from their native land. You did not allow them to accomplish this. You saved innocent people. You repelled an armed attack.
Soldiers and officers, our comrades, died fulfilling their duty. We treasure their memory in our hearts.
The people of Russia fully supported the actions taken by the leadership of the country and the Russian army to protect peace in the Caucasus. We won a military victory. I am confident that in due course those who gave criminal orders will suffer a fair and severe punishment, a severe sanction.
In the long run, the operation to force Georgia to make peace did not complicate our relations with other countries for one simple reason: no one said it but nevertheless everybody understood perfectly that the truth is on our side. Russia was right from both the legal and moral standpoint.
Today I would also like to thank my foreign colleagues who helped to pacify the Georgian adventurists one year ago.
If we are to conduct a legal analysis of what happened, the Georgian side unleashed an aggression against the civilian population of South Ossetia and Russian peacekeepers, and thus against Russia. This conclusion follows directly from the content of Article 51 of the United Nations Charter and the special UN General Assembly resolution of 1974 which defined an act of aggression. It fully corresponds to the situation that arose in South Ossetia in August last year when Georgia treacherously attacked the peacekeeping contingent and the civilian population.
And I would like everyone here to understand a simple thing: you acted entirely legitimately by repelling the aggression against the citizens of your country. I am sure that you well know who armed and, unfortunately, continues to arm the regime in Tbilisi.
The events of August 8 clearly revealed the weaknesses of the collective security system. We have repeatedly warned the international community about the inefficiency of the current system, insisted and continue to insist on the revision of outdated and outmoded approaches, in order to ensure a just order at the global and regional levels.
Russia has put forward detailed proposals on the conclusion of a legally binding treaty on European security. We are confident that the creation of new effective mechanisms in this sphere is in the interests of the entire international community.
Dear comrades, the armed attack on South Ossetia actually prefigured the transformation of the political map of the Caucasus. And the Russian Federation's decision to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was the only possible one. It was the only way to ensure people's safety and stability in the Caucasus region. I stress that this decision is not going to be revoked.
Now we are providing the people of South Ossetia the greatest possible assistance in rebuilding their socio-economic infrastructure. Based on our bilateral agreements we have deployed in this neighbourly republic contingents of Russian border troops to protect against any external threat. The people of Abkhazia can also count on us fulfilling all the obligations that stem from our alliance. The calm, normal, peaceful life of people in this region is our absolute priority.
I would also like to emphasise: our assessment of Saakashvili's regime is in no way affiliated with our feelings towards the Georgian people. With them we have very old close fraternal ties, and we hold them very dear. We will do everything possible for their reconstruction and further development. Moreover, more than one and a half million Georgians live in Russia itself and consider our country their home.
Dear friends, already a year has gone by since those events, but their effects will long remind us of the days when peace in the Caucasus was on the brink of utter collapse. And it was precisely Russian soldiers, our soldiers and officers, including those who are here today and being honoured with state awards, who prevented this catastrophe.
You have upheld the dignity of Russia, you have fulfilled your duty with honour. Thank you for your service.
Indeed, a year has passed since the Russian armed forces helped to save the people of South Ossetia, helped to bring order and maintain peace in the Caucasus. Time passes very fast.
I remember standing in this same square a year ago. At the time our impressions of those August days were absolutely vivid. And our military comrades who received awards here and in the Kremlin also stood at the back.
I have already told you the most important thing today and would like to say once again to all Russian soldiers present here: we have done something very important. We protected our people and did so effectively, responsibly and, unfortunately, at the cost of the lives of our comrades. And whatever happened, whatever interpretation a given event might acquire in the future, this page will always remain a glorious one in the history of our armed forces, the history of our country.
We all know the price of victory. We all know the cost of protecting the lives of ordinary people. But I think you heard from the people you defended that if help had not come so quickly, the fate of the people of South Ossetia could have been different, as well as the situation in the Caucasus.
The world is such that in order to bring those who violate the law, those who commit treacherous aggressions, to order, we require the use of force. If we had refused to help, if we had acted differently, then our country would be different, as would the world.
Therefore posterity will make its judgments on the deed committed by Russian armed forces, Russian peacekeepers and Russian civilians a year ago. I am sure that it will live forever in the grateful memory of our descendants.
Thank you once again for your service.