NOVOROSSIISK, Russia (Reuters) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday he hoped Georgia had learned its lesson and would not make any more attempts to retake its rebel provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
A day after visiting South Ossetia, where the Russian army repelled Georgia in a five-day war last August, Medvedev strongly hinted Russia would again respond militarily if Georgia tried to retake either of the territories.
“I would not like to specially recount what happened last year … and to what we were forced to give a tough and pretty effective response,” he told a meeting with senior officers.
“I hope this lesson will be deeply ingrained in the memory of those now trying to reshape the current order, those trying to solve their personal problems by violence.”
There is widespread speculation in Russia that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, facing opposition protests, may seek to divert public attention from problems at home by trying to spark a new conflict in the turbulent Caucasus.
Russia recognized the two separatist regions as independent states after Georgia’s attempt to retake South Ossetia.
“The main lesson for us from these events is the necessity to hold fully-fledged, on-going and highly effective exercises of all types of the armed forces of the Russian Federation,” Medvedev said.
Visiting the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, Medvedev watched military games staged by a battalion of the elite 7th Airborne Division which took part in the war. Jet aircraft and helicopter gunships whizzed overhead, bombing heights taken by an assumed enemy.
Last week Russia completed eight-day “Caucasus 2009” maneuvers which involved thousands of troops, including those deployed in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
On Monday Medvedev visited South Ossetia’s capital, Tskhinvali, and hailed the region as “a new country.”
Saakashvili slammed the visit as an “immoral gesture.”
“The president of such a big country, Russia, stole into a small region of ours and visited, as if for negotiations, (an) unwashed murderer, corrupt criminal,” Saakashvili said, referring to South Ossetia’s leader Eduard Kokoity, in a statement posted on his website www.president.gov.ge.