MEDVEDEV WARNS GEORGIA –Insists US is still arming Saakashvili

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RUSSIAN President Dmitry Medvedev warned yesterday that Georgia’s leadership will ‘pay the price’ for its attack on South Ossetia one year ago.

He also condemned the US for arming Georgia so that it could attack South Ossetia and for continuing to back the anti-Russian Georgian government.

Medvedev said: ‘I am certain that, in time, a just and severe punishment, very severe retribution, will come to those people who issued their criminal orders to attack South Ossetia,’ referring to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and his advisers.

The Russian president also warned the world that a new conflict could not be ruled out.

This was because Tbilisi was ratcheting up the tensions in the region and the Obama administration was assisting it.

Referring to the US, Medvedev said: ‘Everybody knows who armed and who, unfortunately, is continuing to arm the Tbilisi regime.’

Russia’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who was in Beijing for the Olympic Games when Georgia launched its treacherous attack, gave his own warning, saying ‘with the current Georgian leadership nothing can be excluded.’

He however stressed that the strengthened Russian military presence would make a Georgian offensive ‘much more complicated to carry out’ and would be much more costly for them.

Medvedev said that it was a matter for ‘serious concern’ that Georgia was making ‘unceasing threats to use force to re-establish its “territorial integrity”.’

The Russian leaders’ remarks came as South Ossetia marked the first anniversary of the week long 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.

He told them: ‘You by your actions prevented Georgia from elimination or exiling the people of South Ossetia from their birthplace.’

He spoke at the military base in Vladikavkaz, home to the 58th army, which led Russia’s counter-attack deep into Georgian territory following Georgia’s assault on South Ossetia.

A French President Sarkozi-brokered ceasefire ended the conflict five days later, after several hundred people had been killed and thousands wounded.

Moscow has recognised South Ossetia and another Georgian breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent states. Only Nicaragua has followed its lead.

In the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, 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 blood-thirsty enemy back.’