18 Aug 2008 11:20:30 GMT
KURSK, Russia, Aug 18 (Reuters) – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, whose forces have rolled into Georgia in support of pro-Moscow separatists, warned on Monday that any further aggression against Russian citizens would face a “crushing response”.
“If anyone thinks that they can kill our citizens and escape unpunished, we will never allow this. If anyone tries this again, we will come out with a crushing response,” Medvedev told World War Two veterans in the Russian city of Kursk.
“We have all the necessary resources, political, economic and military. If anyone had any illusions about this, they have to abandon them,” Medvedev said.
Fighting erupted in South Ossetia after Georgia on Aug. 7-8 tried to recapture the rebel region, sparking an international crisis as Russia mounted the biggest military deployment outside its borders since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.
Moscow and Washington have been trading barbs over Georgia, an ally of the United States seeking NATO membership, after Russia occupied several towns in Georgia proper, outside South Ossetia.
Medvedev, facing his first international crisis since taking over the Kremlin’s top job in May, said Russia did not want to spoil relations with anyone. But he demanded respect.
“We do not want a deterioration of international relations, we want to be respected. We want our people, our values to be respected,” he said.
“We have always been a peace-loving state. Practically there is not a single occasion in the history of the Russian or Soviet state when we first started military actions,” Medvedev said.
“We have not attacked anyone, we only secured the rights and dignity of people as peacekeepers.” (Reporting by Oleg Shchedrov, writing by Chris Baldwin and Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Michael Stott)