Transcript of the interview of the Deputy Prime Minister
of Russia Sergey Ivanov to CNN on August 11, 2008.

 

For everyone in the United States who was here and for everyone in the United States who has been watching this story and has watched the developments since Friday, can you tell me why Russian tanks, troops, warplanes are in, have been in Georgia?

 

That is a very easy question. First of all, good afternoon and thanks for the opportunity to be with you. I have an impression that the American public thinks or intends to think that Russia attacked Georgia.

 

That what we have heard from the President of Georgia, in his words…

 

Yes, exactly. Thanks for prompting me on that.

A big Russian bear attacked a small peaceful Georgia. In fact, the situation is and was vice-versa. It was a big Georgia which attacked a small and tiny breakaway Republic of South Ossetia. And only 24 hours after the city of Tskhinvali, the capital of the province, and many villages had been totally destroyed, thousands of civilians were killed, burnt alive in their houses, in their hiding, and also around  fifteen Russian peacekeepers had been killed by the Georgian army, only after that Russia sent its army to the territory of South Ossetia to protect the lives of the Russian civilians and its peacekeepers.

 

O’key, Deputy Prime Minister, I understand, Georgia’s President, as you know, says he was responding to the separatists in that region of South Ossetia who were causing the damage. It was an attempt to restore order to South Ossetia.

 

Well, as far as I remember from our recent history, President Miloshevich also used the same pretext in restoring law and order in Kosovo. And genocide carried out by Georgians of South Ossetian territory…

 

Are you accusing Georgia’s President and the Georgian military of ethnic cleansing here?

 

Of ethnic cleansing,

 

You are?

 

Yes. I accuse the Georgian leaders of ethnic cleansing because their political goal was to eliminate the population, a tiny population, of South Ossetia because without that it is impossible to integrate South Ossetia back into Georgia.

But as a result of what happened now, I am totally sure that the political settlement, I mean, between Georgia and South Ossetia will never be a reality in the coming decades.

 

Let me ask the follow-up then. So the charge now from you is that Georgia was involved in ethnic cleansing in South Ossetia. Is that the charge that justifies your forces moving into that province?

 

Yes. Let me explain it. Maybe many Americans do not know the fact that Russian troops have been stationed in South Ossetia according the international agreements…

 

As peacekeepers?

 

As peacekeepers starting from 1992 and they kept peace for 18 long years. After the attack, of course, and our peacekeepers were in small numbers and armed only with light weapons, after being attacked with tanks, missiles, planes, together will local civilians we did not have any other option but send our reinforcements, Russian reinforcements, to the territory of South Ossetia.

 

I have to ask you. Was there another way to do this? Was there a diplomatic solution to this other than sending your forces into sovereign Georgia territory? Was there another way to approach this through negotiations with the United States, with the EU? Was there another way of doing this other than sending tanks across the sovereign border? That is my question.

 

The answer is very simple. Do you think that after more than 2000 of your nationals being killed and massacred you would appeal to the United Nations which we accidentally did and the United Nations and the Security Council did not take any decision on the situation, we had to urgently defend the people who are still alive. That was the option. That was the choice and we did not have any alternative.

 

Do you believe that the United States may in a way have encouraged this action by the Georgian Government by conducting joint military operations recently?

 

In my private view, I do not believe that the United States directly encouraged President Saakashvili to attack and massacre people in thousands. I do not believe in that. But helping Saakashvili (which, let us be frank, is a satellite, he is an American satellite, that is a known fact), encouraging him and providing some weapons and military instructions maybe that gave Saakashvili the wrong impression that whatever he does will be swallowed by the world community and the United States in particular. That was a fatal mistake. That was a fatal mistake by Saakashvili.

 

There is a cease-fire agreement signed by Saakashvili. The President of Georgia (of France, прим.) is on his way to Moscow. Will it be signed?

 

It is not a cease-fire agreement. A cease-fire agreement is signed by two sides when they meet. The Russian President has already said that first of all we need a written agreement between Georgia on one side and South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway republic, that they will never use force in future to settle down their political disputes. In fact, Russia has been calling for such an agreement for the last four or three years and President Saakashvili always said “I will not sign it because I would never fight my own nationals”, he broke his word. He killed more than 2000 of his own nationals in South Ossetia.

 

I am just curious why do not you or why does the President, why does the Prime Minister of Russia just call for the people of South Ossetia who feel more Russian than Georgian to come home?

 

All the people of South Ossetia, they are Russian citizens and South Ossetia is their home. They have lived there for centuries…

Of course, they are refugees now but I am sure later most of them will get back because, in fact, in recent history or last century history ethnic cleansing and genocide was carried out by Georgians twice only in the twenties last century and the nineties last century. This war is a third attempt to totally extricate, eliminate, anihiliate South Ossetians and their territory.

 

We have been speaking with the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergey Ivanov and it was good to talk to you. Thank you for your time.

 

Thank you. Take care, bye.

 

Thank you.