"By the way, the last unit that bravely fought against
It is natural that Georgia espiers to join alliances that will help it to avoid wars and trouble and solve all problems peacefully. I do not want to insult the Russian nation but the people who violated the Georgian border were far from civilized (could not meet any such criteria); this was very similar to Mongol invasion and those who know the history probably noticed the similarity … they were much like the soldiers described in Alexander Kazbegi’s books, also very much like the soldiers of the 11th Bolshevik Army and the Bolshevik hordes that invaded Georgia later on...
But this is also my personal tragedy these hoards destroyed everything we had built: schools, hospitals, administrative buildings, businesses, attraction parks, e.g. a disco bar we built in the Liakhvi valley and an attraction park where I had a chance to walk with children from the Tamarasheni village. We had also organized and attended concerts there. All this infrastructure was destroyed, leveled to the ground by these hoards.
Last year, together with the local children from Kodori and Chkhalta valleys I personally opened a ski resort in the upper part of Abkhazia. It was fantastic. This is one of my warmest memories when we gave these children good sports cloths and they looked and behaved like first class sportsmen, real Europeans. Everything changes when you change conditions. They were so disciplined and had excellent local trainers. The first target hit by vacuum bombs was this resort. This demonstrates what kind of people we have to deal with. Our progress, welfare, education is absolutely unacceptable for them. That’s why they closed the road to Tskhinvali and blocked the means for development.
If we had been preparing for the war why would we build civilian infrastructure? I would like to ask this question! Why so much construction? Why would we spend huge resources for construction in the area intended for war? Everybody laughs at me that I paint buildings. The most beautifully painted buildings were in Kodory, upper Abkhaziaდა and Didi Liakhvi valley. Those painted and rehabilitated buildings turned to be very good targets. These newly built administrative buildings and schools were destroyed by the Russian aviation first in March of the last year and now in August.
So, our approach was very clear, proved both by our actions and rhetoric: I have always been saying that Georgia belongs to all ethnic groups living here. It is not only a country of Georgians. This state belongs to Georgians, Georgia’s Ossetians, Georgia’s Abkhazians, Georgia’s Armenians, Georgia’s Azeri, Georgia’s Jews.
I have always been saying that and this has always been my primary thesis (since the time I was in the opposition or working at various positions). During Mr. Shevardnadze’s Government, when I was in the opposition, some people said that I was Armenian and that’s why people should not give me their votes. They also disseminated brochures in Akhalkalaki where the majority of the population was Armenian saying that my mother was Azery and therefore they should not vote for me. That was when I said that for those who hate Armenians I am happy to be Armenian, for those who hate Azeri – I am Azeri, for those who hate Jews - I am a Jew and for those who hate Ossetians – I am Ossetian (and really there are Ossetians whose surname is Saakashvili), but at the same time I will remain to be Georgian, more than anyone else. This is my credo and the concept on which our State has been built. Our greatest king has always been saying that Georgia belong to its multiethnic Georgian population. So this is our philosophy. Who were the soldiers of our army? Before this war started our Surgeon Magdaev died in Iraque. Ethnically he was Ossetian, head of our Sapper Group. Anal Lakoev –one of our most experienced military pilots, real hero of the Abkhazian war – is Ossetian. The same can be said about many other commanders, I cannot list them all here. We also have Abkhaz commanders etc.
The most surprising was that when the Russian tanks were coming to take control of the Baku-Tbilisi-Jeihan oil pipeline, the group that blocked their way was local Special Force Unit from Akhalkalaki, Javakheti region, lead by Capitan (or Major, I am not sure) Odoian (Ogoian). When the Russians ordered him to move away, because they were going to Javakheti, he answered: "You can go only over my dead body”. When the Russians saw that the members of this Special Force Unit were Armenians they were not sure what to do and turned back.
This is new Georgia. When I became the President of Georgia, all conflict solving organizations all Western organizations had their representatives in Akhalkalaki, like ravens sensing death, expecting a big ethnic conflict to start any day. By now all of them have left, because this region is one of the most dynamically developing and loyal one in Georgia today.
This is a result of the above policy. When the Russian occupation forces entered Akhalgori, where many Ossetians lived and told them that they came to liberate local Ossetians, most of these Ossetians left Akhalgori and now we are building houses for them so that they can settle in other places because they were our citizens and we cannot stand such lawlessness. This is what I am so proud of. Nobody can say that Georgia mistreats its ethnic minorities.
Wherever we could control the situation this problem was eliminated. Real separatism today exists in Russia, that’s where Russia must take care of the problems. That’s where real separatism and real brutality can be found. We had control in Akhalgory and Akhmeta populated by Ossetians live, in Akhalkalaki populated by Armenians, in Marneuli – populated by Azeri. We do not have any problems there – where we have problems are the areas occupied by the Russian military, so called "Peacekeeping Force”. In Abkhazia, where they created a 100km buffer zone and Tskhinvali, where they actually created an occupational administrative body and finally got rid of all Ossetians (or almost all).
I would like to remind you that we liberated from Tskhinvali prison Mr. Mr. Alan Parastaev. He has never been a great supporter of the Georgian state. Back in 80ies and 90ies, together with Mr. Dimitri Sanakoev, he was one of the most prominent separatist leaders. Mr. Dimitri Sanakoev was the Minister of Defense, fighting against us with weapon. In 2004 Mr. Karkusov was fighting with soldiers subordinated to me (I do not know whether my comment will offend him) but today he is very successful Deputy Minister of Economy of Georgia. Today Mr. Alan Parastaev is one of the leaders of our delegation at Geneva negotiations. We resqued him from Tskhinvali prozon where he had been beaten so badly that one of his kidneys practically stopped functioning. He almost died. I did not have any idea whether this man liked Georgia or not, we just liberated and welcomed him and today I absolutely trust this man. This is the strength of Georgia. The Russian FSB did not trust Osetins in Tskhinvali. That’s why they bought Barankevich, Mindzaev, Morozov etc. We chose to organize elections of the administration in settlements controlled by us and to the local population elected the person who some time ago had been shooting at them to be their leader. We also formed Special Force Units from people who were shooting at us a few years ago. We gave them weapon on behalf of the Georgian State and many of them died fighting against the invaders. That’s what new Georgia is like!
I apologize for extending this topic so much and talking so long, but when we are talking about the Georgian army I cannot restrain myself from saying that Georgia managed to achieve national consolidation in the most difficult conditions. Therefore, when Russia’s all attempts failed. They did everything possible to increase tensions. There was an attempt to blow up the bridge on the road between Azerbaijan and Kaspi in order to spoil our relations with Azerbaijan. There was huge pressure on Armenia. Several high ranking Russian officials and officers from the Russian Ministry of Security arrived to instigate unrest in Akhalkalaki during the war. Nothing happened. They could not stimulate any unrest because there are higher interests. No matter what the geopolitical orientation of each country is, we know that we depend on each other We know that peace is the most valuable thing and we know that once the peace is broken this can lead to catastrophic consequences for the Caucasus. It is our common job to prevent this.
Of course we have a lot of shortfalls and of course we do not have many reasons to be happy of ourselves … a big part of the Georgian territory is occupied today. Georgia is under heavy pressure and blow, but formation of the Georgian state has been achieved, including formation of the multi-ethnic society. This country is an example of many nations living together, in friendship and cooperation, protecting common interests.
Many people might not remember, but I would like to remind you that when Georgia defended its independence Georgians and Armenians stood together in Javakheti and saved Georgia’s independence and the territory. This lesson is very important and we should not forget the surprising brevity of our policemen Ogoian (Ogoian is more correct). This is the basis on which our common future will be built.