Medvedev warns Georgia's leaders of 'retribution' over war

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has warned that Georgia's leaders would face "retribution" for the war in South Ossetia and condemned US backing of the state. The remarks came as South Ossetia marked the one-year anniversary of the conflict.


AFP - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Saturday that Georgia's leadership would face "retribution" over the war in South Ossetia a year ago and condemned US backing of the ex-Soviet state.

Medvedev's remarks broadcast on Russian state television came as South Ossetia, a Georgian rebel region supported by Moscow, marked the one-year anniversary of the conflict.

"I am certain that, in time, just and severe punishment, severe retribution, will come to those people who issued the criminal orders" to attack South Ossetia, he said.

Medvedev also warned that a new conflict in the volatile Caucasus region could not be ruled out due to Georgia's actions and implicitly accused the United States of ratcheting up tensions.

"It is well known who armed and who, unfortunately, is continuing to arm the Tbilisi regime," he said, a clear reference to Washington, which provided military training and equipment to Georgia before last year's war.

In a letter posted on the Kremlin's website, Medvedev said Georgia's actions, including "unceasing threats to use force to reestablish its 'territorial integrity'," remained a matter of "serious concern".

Medvedev issued his warning as he visited a military base in southern Russia near the border with Georgia where he decorated troops.

The military base in Vladikavkaz is home to the 58th army, which led Russia's counter-attack that pushed Georgian forces out of the rebel region and back deep into Georgian territory following their assault on South Ossetia.

An EU-brokered ceasefire ended the conflict five days later, after several hundred people had been killed and thousands wounded.

Moscow has since recognised South Ossetia and another Georgian breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent states -- to almost universal condemnation in the international community.

Meanwhile, ceremonies were held in the rebel territory itself.

In the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, hundreds of people held a candle-light vigil on Friday shortly before midnight, the time when Georgian forces launched the assault that triggered the conflict.

The local residents gathered around a fountain on the main square in Tskhinvali, the rebel province's main city, where they placed candles on empty artillery shells.

Images of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, interspersed with pictures of destroyed homes and elderly women in tears, were projected on a giant screen in the square while musicians played melancholy music.

Eduard Kokoity, leader of South Ossetia, addressed the crowd and said Georgia bore all the blame for the conflict.

"The goal of the operation was the destruction and exile of the South Ossetian people," Kokoity said.

"South Ossetian fighters courageously thwarted Tbilisi's plans for blitzkrieg. Russian troops came to the rescue of South Ossetia and pushed the bloodthirsty enemy back."

In Georgia proper, commemorative ceremonies were held Friday, reflecting continuing disputes over everything from who started the war to when it actually began.

Among the events in Tskhinvali on Saturday, the wreckage of a home destroyed in the conflict was used for the inauguration of a "genocide museum" documenting some of the horror in South Ossetia last year.

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