Medvedev chides U.S. Senate over Georgia resolution

by Reuters
Friday, 5 August 2011 06:00 GMT

* Calls U.S. senators' stance on Georgia "senile"

* Says he, not Putin, gave order for Georgia war in 2008

* Moscow could resume talks with Georgia's future leader

By Alexei Anishchuk

SOCHI, Russia, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev chided "senile" U.S. senators on Friday for urging Moscow to withdraw troops from Georgia's breakaway regions.

The Senate resolution reiterates Washington's long-standing call for Russian troops to comply with the terms of a ceasefire ending its five-day war with Georgia in August 2008 and withdraw from the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Speaking in his first interview with Georgian media since the war, Medvedev said the U.S. Senate resolution reflected only the "views of some of its senile members".

"This is a foreign parliament and it is their own business," Medvedev told Russia's Ekho Moskvy radio, Russia Today television and Georgia's PIK-TV at his seaside residence in Russia's southern city of Sochi.

"I don't care about their rhetoric," he said.

The comments were a rare barb at Washington from Medvedev, who has worked closely with U.S. President Barack Obama's team to oversee a much-touted "reset" in relations between their two countries following a low ebb over the Georgia war.

Medvedev said that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili made the decision to stage a military assault to retake its rebel South Ossetia region, sparking the war with Russia, after then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Tbilisi in a show of U.S. support.

"After the visit by Condoleezza Rice, my (Georgian) colleague stopped communicating with me," he said in the interview, released by the Kremlin on Friday.

"I am perfectly sure that was when he came up with this plan (to go to war)."

A string of diplomatic spats including spying accusations and Georgia's threat to veto Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organisation have increased tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi on the eve of the third anniversary of the war.

Earlier this week, Russia's foreign ministry said the U.S. Senate resolution fuelled a "revanchist mood" in Tbilisi.

Moscow argues it now has a right to keep troops in two Georgian rebel regions after it recognised them as independent following the war.

'HARDEST NIGHT OF MY LIFE'

As long as Saakashvili remains in power, Medvedev said he ruled out the possibility of renewing diplomatic relations with Georgia, severed since the 2008 war.

"Saakashvili does not seem to me a person who deserves respect," he said, adding that only under new leadership would the countries "have a chance to resume diplomatic relations and start negotiations on all issues with Georgia".

With a presidential election approaching in March 2012, Medvedev repeated claims that he did not consult Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, his predecessor who is still widely seen as the country's chief decision maker, before giving the order for war.

"We got in touch with each other on the next day, when I had already given all the orders," Medvedev said. "Everything was in flames there then."

Medvedev called the night of August 8, after he had given the order to send in Russian troops to rebuff Georgia's assault on South Ossetia, "the hardest night" of his life.

But he stressed he had no regrets over the decisions.

Putin steered Medvedev into the Kremlin in 2008 in the face a constitutional bar on him serving a third consecutive term in the Kremlin. Putin became president in 2000.

Both Medvedev and Putin have said they will decide together which of them will run in the 2012 presidential poll. (Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel and Gareth Jones) (Created by Gareth Jones)

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