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Medvedev: 'Russia is a nation to be reckoned with'
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2008-09-07 11:04

President Dmitry Medvedev declared that "Russia is a nation to be reckoned with" following its war with Georgia, as tensions between Russia and the West soared to heights unseen since the Cold War.

Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev attends a UN Security Council session in the Kremlin in Moscow September 6, 2008. [Agencies]

Medvedev said the United States was rearming Georgia under the guise of humanitarian aid, after Friday's arrival of the US Navy's Mediterranean flagship at a key Georgian port close to where Russian troops are patrolling.

"I wonder how they would like it if we sent humanitarian assistance using our navy to countries of the Caribbean that have suffered from the recent hurricanes," Medvedev said.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, said "the truth is on our side" and likened the situation in South Ossetia with Srebrenica, the Bosnian town that was the site of Europe's worst mass carnage since World War II.

In France, the European Union's 27 foreign ministers were reluctant to provoke Moscow, with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner saying the EU did not plan to impose sanctions against Russia.

"Russia must remain a partner, it's our neighbor, it's a large country and there is no question to go back to a Cold War situation, that would be a big mistake," Kouchner said.

In the weeks since Russian forces entered South Ossetia, Russian officials have used hardline language toward the West. Putin has suggested the United States was to blame for the war for helping the Georgian military rebuild.

At a meeting Saturday of the State Council, Medvedev said the world had changed since the beginning of fighting in Georgia last month.

"We have reached a moment of truth. It became a different world after August 8," he said.

"Russia will never allow anyone to infringe upon the lives and dignity of its citizens. Russia is a nation to be reckoned with from now on," Medvedev told the council, a government consultative body of largely regional governors.

Medvedev criticized the United States and other Western nations, though not by name, for challenging Russia's operation.

"Millions of people supported us, but we've heard no words of support and understanding from those who in the same circumstances pontificate about free elections and national dignity and the need to use force to punish an aggressor," he said.

The United States has moved to counter Russia, both lambasting Moscow for what it called a disproportionate military response and providing humanitarian and economic aid to Georgia.

US Vice President Dick Cheney, at an economic meeting Saturday in Italy, said Moscow has given "no satisfactory justification" for its action against Georgia.

Moscow has questioned why Washington chose one of its most sophisticated warships, the USS Mount Whitney, to transport aid. The vessel is the floating command post for the US Navy's Sixth Fleet, based in Italy.

At the port of Poti, Russian forces watched closely Saturday as the US naval ship USS Mount Whitney delivered 17 tons of aid for Georgians.
Russian forces onshore were also scrutinizing the ship from a position just 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) away from its anchorage off Poti.

US aid is unloaded from USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the US Navy's Sixth Fleet, in Georgia's Black Sea port of Poti September 6, 2008.  [Agencies]

"They're clearly watching us very, very closely, and I think they'll be very happy when we leave," the ship's commanding officer, Capt. Owen Honors, said.

Capt. John Moore, the commander of the task force said the Russian frigate Ladnyy had trailed the Whitney about 4,000 yards (3,656 meters) away for the entire Black Sea trip. The Russian boat remained in international waters after the US ship crossed Friday into Georgian waters 12 miles (19 kilometers) from Poti, he said.

In an echo of the cat-and-mouse games that Soviet and American forces played in the Cold War, Moore said the two countries' naval forces had had little contact except for a brief exchange between the Ladnyy and another US ship, the USS McFaul.

"I think it was on the 24th August, when the Ladnyy contacted the bridge and very courteously said 'Hey, welcome to the Black Sea', and we responded in kind 'thank you very much'," he said.

Georgia, a South Caucasus nation, sits astride a strategic corridor for Caspian Sea and Central Asian oil and gas. Georgia's desire to join NATO and move closer to the West has angered Russia.

Since the war, Russia has recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as independent nations despite protests from Georgia.

Putin said in an interview broadcast late Saturday that Russia was justified in its intervention in South Ossetia. He predicted there would be no cooling of ties with the West because the West is dependent on Russia's oil, gas and mineral wealth.

"We are convinced that the truth is on our side," he said in the interview.

He also drew parallels between South Ossetia and Srebrenica, the town where Serb troops in 1995 killed some 8,000 Muslim men and boys. He said the European peacekeepers there at the time, mainly Dutch soldiers, operating under a UN mandate, stood aside as the massacre took place.

In the French city of Avignon, EU foreign ministers met to figure out how the bloc can mediate a long-term solution to the standoff. Kouchner insisted the EU's aim was also to improve relations with Russia, despite current disagreements.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was heading to Russia on Monday to meet with Medvedev and clarify parts of the EU peace deal, especially the terms for withdrawing troops.

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