Georgia leaders to face 'retribution' for war: Medvedev



TSKHINVALI, Amelie Herenstein - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev warned Saturday that Georgia's leadership would face "retribution" over the war in South Ossetia a year ago and criticised US backing of the ex-Soviet state.
"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, referring to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.



Georgia leaders to face 'retribution' for war: Medvedev
He also warned in remarks aired on television that a new conflict in the volatile Georgian rebel region could not be ruled out due to Tbilisi'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 in a clear reference to Washington, which provided military training and equipment to Georgia before last year's war.
Russia's powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin echoed the warning, saying "with the current Georgian leadership nothing can be excluded."
He however stressed that the beefed up Russian military presence would make a Georgian offensive "much more complicated."
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".
The Russian leaders' remarks came as South Ossetia marked the first anniversary of the brief war last August.
Medvedev issued his warning as he visited a military base in southern Russia near the border with Georgia where he decorated troops.
Georgia had tried to "eliminate, or at least exile the people of South Ossetia from their birthplace," he said, adding: "You prevented that."
The military base in Vladikavkaz is home to the 58th army, which led Russia's counter-attack deep into Georgian territory following Georgia's 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.
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.
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.
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.
In Tblisi meanwhile, a Georgian blogger known as "Cyxymu" blamed Russia for a massive cyber assault that affected millions of Internet users worldwide by disrupting popular sites like Twitter and Facebook.
"An attack of such a scale would cost a huge amount of money," the 34-year-old blogger told AFP.
"This is why I think that some structures in Russia are behind this," he added. Russia had launched attack silence his criticism of their role in last year's Georgia-Russia war, he said.
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Saturday, August 8th 2009
Amelie Herenstein
           


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