President Medvedev said he had signed a decree recognizing the independence of Georgia’s two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“Russia calls on other states to follow this decision,” he said. “This is not an easy choice, but this is the only possible way to save people’s lives.”
Below is the full text of President Medvedev’s televised announcement made after a meeting of the Russian National Security Council on August 26:
“You of course are aware of the tragedy in South Ossetia: overnight shelling of Tskhinvali by the Georgian army led to the deaths of hundreds of our peaceful citizens, Russian peacekeepers died as well, performing their duty involving the protection of women, children and elderly people.
The Georgian leadership in violation of the UN Charter, in violation of international commitments and contrary to common sense launched an armed conflict and civilians became victims of this armed conflict.
Abkhazia expected the same fate
Obviously Tbilisi hoped to carry out a blitzkrieg to make the international community face the fact [of South Ossetia’s takeover]. The most inhuman method was chosen to achieve the goal – reintegrate South Ossetia through total annihilation of the entire nation.
It was not the first attempt. In 1991 Georgian President [Zviad] Gamsakhurdia with calls for “Georgia only for Georgians” – just think about these words – ordered an attack on Sukhumi and Tskhinvali. Thousands were killed, tens of thousands became refugees, villages were ruined – this is where it led.
It was Russia which stopped at that time the annihilation of Abkhazians and Ossetians.
Our state has become a mediator and peacekeeper and it was trying to achieve political resolution and at the same time we were consistently guided by the principle of recognition of Georgia’s territorial integrity.
The Georgian leadership has chosen another path: undermining the negotiating process, ignoring achieved agreements, political and military provocations, attacks on peacekeepers – all these were roughly violating the regime of the conflict zones established by the UN and OSCE.
Russia showed restraint and patience.
We called for a return to the negotiating table many times and we did not change our positions even after the unilateral recognition of Kosovo’s independence.
But our insistent proposals for Georgia to sign non-use of force treaties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia were left without any response.
Unfortunately, NATO and even the UN also ignored them [Russia’s proposals].
Now it is clear: Tbilisi had never planned to resolve the conflicts peacefully.
The Georgian leadership methodically prepared for war, and political and material assistance of foreign supporters only reinforced [Georgia’s] sense of impunity.
Overnight on August 8, 2008, Tbilisi made its choice: Saakashvili chose the way of genocide to resolve his political tasks. By doing so he himself dashed all hopes for peaceful co-existence of Ossetians, Abkhazians and Georgians in a single state.
The people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have several times supported independence for their Republics through referendums [once in Abkhazia in 1999 and twice in South Ossetia in 1992 and 2006].
We understand that after what has happened in Tskhinvali and what was being planned in Abkhazia, they have the right to decide their own fate on their own.
The presidents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, based on the results of referendums and decisions by the respective Republics’ parliaments, appealed to Russia with a request to recognize Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s sovereignty.
The Council of Federation [the upper house of the Russian parliament] and the State Duma [the lower house of the Russian parliament] have voted in favor of these appeals.
In the face of the existing situation, a decision is required.
Taking into account the freewill of the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, being guided by the UN Charter, the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law in respect of friendly relations between states, the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and by other fundamental documents, I have signed a decree on the recognition of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia by the Russian Federation.
Russia calls on other states to follow this decision. This is not an easy choice, but this is the only possible way to save people’s lives.”