President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Comrade officers, comrade soldiers and sergeants, dear guests and friends from South Ossetia,
Please let me say just a few words and then we will simply talk to each other.
You know, a year ago when this tragedy happened, every one of us wondered how this would end for himself, how it would end for his family, and how it would end for our country.
Because when such terrible events occur they never end inconclusively, but the result could have been very different. It would have been otherwise if we had not taken necessary, hard and very difficult decisions, if those sitting around this table had not performed their military duty until the end, if at the end of the five-day campaign, at the end of hostilities, Russia had not taken the very difficult decision to recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia. If all this had not happened then, as I already told you, we would be living in a different country. We would not have been able to pretend that nothing happened, not to mention the deaths of civilians and of our comrades.
Our choice was a different one, we acted otherwise. And a year further on I can say that we acted rightly. This is also proved by the fact that we are all sitting at this table, talking about what happened. And the overall situation in the world, the attitude to Russia – all this has changed.
Despite the fact that we all sometimes hear comments about the fact that Russia did something it should not have done, sometimes absolutely disingenuous comments, sometimes comments that stem from misconceptions, the reality is completely different.
With whomever I talked with after the events, almost everyone looked me in the eye and said frankly: “Yes, you were right. Unfortunately, we cannot acknowledge this for different reasons — our role and place in the international arena, and domestic reasons as well — but you were right.”
This feeling of moral rectitude gives us the opportunity to further develop our country as we want to, to make it a strong, powerful one which plays a key role here in the Caucasus and in other parts of the world. And not in order to embody certain principles, but simply so that our people can live normally, live a dignified life, be in good health, and not be threatened by enemy attack, neither in the line of fire nor caught in crossfire.
Because only a strong country can provide a normal life for its citizens. Weak states are disappearing from the map of the world, powerful countries are helping other nations to construct a peaceful life. Russia should be just such a powerful country, and those present here serve just such a country and do so with dignity!
But today is not only the day which marks the beginning of a new future for South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but also the day when we remember our friends, our military comrades, and the civilians who gave their lives for the independence of their country.
I think it correct that the first toast we make here be dedicated to the memory of all those who died defending their Motherland.
Let us remember our comrades.