Despite today’s anti-Russian frenzy in the British media here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and here, to give a few examples, at least one UK citizen has demonstrated he has an ounce of wit, commenting in the Telegraph, “Better leave the bear alone and get busy with that cunning fox (Saakashvili). I have an impression every word of his is a lie. The whole day he’s been claimin’ his troops pulled out of Ossetia and now even Sky News reported seeing many Georgean troops around Ossetian capital ready to strike. I presume that’s their usual tactics – hit & run.”
Couldn’t agree more.
In order to offer some kind of counter to the media spin, here’s a transcript of an interview between Wolf Blitzer and Alexander Darchiev, Russian charge d’affairs in Washington, on last night’s CNN Late Edition:
BLITZER: Mr. Darchiev, thanks very much for joining us. Why is your government, your country’s military attacking targets in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia? Mr. Darchiev, I don’t know if you can hear me
DARCHIEV: Yeah, I can hear you, and so what actually is going on on the ground, yeah, I can hear you. What’s actually going on the ground is precision strikes against military infrastructure in order to prevent Georgian aircraft and military attack on our peacekeepers.
BLITZER: Let me interrupt, Mr. Darchiev, but I’m not exactly clear. What do targets inside Tbilisi, which is relatively far away from the front lines in this battle — what do targets in Tbilisi have to do with what’s going on in Ossetia?
DARCHIEV: There is a military airfield there, so what we’re actually doing is we are striking against legitimate military targets in order to prevent Georgian aircraft and military attack our peacekeepers.
BLITZER: The Bush administration is not very happy with what Russia is doing right now, with what the prime minister, Mr. Putin is doing, or the president, Medvedev, is doing. The deputy national security adviser to President Bush issued a statement in Beijing today, and I’m going to play it for you. Listen to this.
Let me read it to you. “We have made it clear to the Russians that if the disproportionate and dangerous escalation on the Russian side continues, that this will have a significant long-term impact on U.S.-Russian relations.”
How worried are you right now, Mr. Darchiev, that this could have an enormous impact on the future of U.S. and indeed western relations with Russia?
DARCHIEV: You know, yes, what actually is going on so we are trying to enforce the adventurous Georgian leadership to peace, and the best thing our American partners could do is to tell Mr. Saakashvili, to tell him quite clearly that he could not prevail militarily, that he should be held accountable for the barbaric and treacherous attack on innocent civilians in South Ossetia, that he should be held accountable for the aggression against South Ossetia.
And the best thing he could do right now is to unconditionally, I repeat, unconditionally withdraw his troops and sign a legally binding agreement with Ossetians on non use of force. In no ways do we have plans to invade Georgia. Again, our goal is to force adventurous Georgian leadership to peace.
BLITZER: But don’t you recognise Ossetia as part of the territorial integrity of Georgia, because the rest of the world does?
DARCHIEV: You know, what happened on August 7th, I mean, the aggression and indiscriminate shelling of residential neighborhoods of Tskhinvali. You know, Tskhinvali itself is completely ruined. There’s 20,000 refugees, there are more than 2,000 civilians killed. There are credible reports that Georgian special forces were throwing grenades into the shelters where women and children were hiding; wounded civilians including little kids and peacekeepers were finished off by gunshots and bayonets.
In this circumstances, in this aggression, there should be no talk of South Ossetia remaining in Georgia. You know, the people there have voted several times for their independence, you know, and after what happened, after that aggression I think there should be no further talk for South Ossetia being part of Georgia.
BLITZER: So you’re saying it’s now what, part of Russia?
DARCHIEV: We’re not saying that. That’s the people for South Ossetia to decide, you know.
BLITZER: What about — there’s word now that Ukraine, another strong ally of the United States like Georgia, is siding with Georgia against Russia and in fact taking military action and blockades involving Russian vessels. What’s your reaction to that?
DARCHIEV: I think it’s a very unfortunate development, and I just want to make it quite clear this is not a naval blockade. We want to be sure no military equipment from abroad is being shipped abroad from the zone of conflict by sea. And again, what’s going on, on the ground in South Ossetia, is a peace enforcement. We want to force the Georgian leadership to peace, and what we see right now on the ground is that Georgian troops not withdrawing but regrouping, including heavy armor and increased attacks on Tskhinvali. Mass mobilisation is still under way.
BLITZER: So I take it, Mr. Darchiev, you’re in no mood for a cease-fire, a return to the status quo any and to what existed a few days ago?
DARCHIEV: You know, what is right now, and with every day passed, what should be done first for — and the best thing that Mr. Saakashvili can do, that he should unconditionally withdraw his troops, right now. And the sooner — and the sooner he does it, the better.
BLITZER: All right, Mr. Darchiev, we’ll — we’re going to leave it right there, Alexander Darchiev, the charge at the Russian Embassy here in Washington.