[QODLink]
Europe

Georgia marks South Ossetia war anniversary

Georgian and Russian leaders trade barbs five years after the two countries went to war over separatist territory.

Last Modified: 08 Aug 2013 18:53
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

Georgian and Russian leaders have traded barbs as Georgia marked the fifth anniversary of the countries' brief 2008 war over the separatist territory of South Ossetia.

The government is holding a series of sombre events on Thursday, including a wreath-laying ceremony at an army cemetery in Tbilisi, and a military parade in the town of Gori, which was bombed and briefly occupied by Russian forces.

On the eve of the anniversary, Georgian and Russian politicians pointed fingers at each other over responsibility for the fighting.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who was president at the time of the conflict, said in an interview on Georgian television that Russia's action "was the only right decision".

"If you're asking if I would do the same thing again: yes," Medvedev said, refusing to apologise for the conflict and laying the blame squarely at Tbilisi's door.

On the night of August 7-8, 2008, Georgia's pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili launched an offensive against fighters in the region South Ossetia. Saakashvili said he was reacting to attacks on ethnic Georgians and soldiers by South Ossetian fighters.

Is a lamb able to negotiate with a wolf?

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili,

Russia then intervened on behalf of its Ossetian allies, saying it was for humanitarian reasons aimed at keeping the peace. Within days, Russian forces entered Georgia as Georgian forces retreated. Both sides agreed to a ceasefire on August 16, following international mediation, although Russian troops remained in Georgia for months afterwards.

On Wednesday, Saakashvili lashed out at Russia, saying Moscow was still trying to strongarm Georgia into dropping its ambitions to join NATO and the European Union.

"If the Georgian nation wants to say no to its territory and future development... then there are certain possibilities with Russia," Saakashvili said in a television interview.

"Otherwise, is a lamb able to negotiate with a wolf?" said Saakashvili, whose second and last term as president ends this autumn.

Last October, Saakashvili's United National Movement party lost out in parliamentary elections to a coalition headed by Bidzina Ivanishvili, who disagrees with Saakashvili's foreign policies.

Medvedev said Russia was "hearing" the change of tone in Tbilisi but that any moves to improve ties faced major obstacles. Russia recognises South Ossetia as an independent republic, troops remain stationed in South Ossetia and tensions remain high on the de facto border.

410

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
Featured
Booming global trade in 50-million-year-old amber stones is lucrative, controversial, and extremely dangerous.
Legendary Native-American High Bird was trained in ancient warrior traditions, which he employed in World War II.
Hounded opposition figure says he's hoping for the best at sodomy appeal but prepared to return to prison.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and racial profiling after two soldiers killed in separate incidents.
Group's culture of summary justice is back in Northern Ireland's spotlight after new sexual assault accusations.