Not that it is a surprise to anyone in the know, but most Russians have been told that Georgia started the fighting and Russia entered the war to protect their citizens in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russian authorities have stuck to that story line for five years.
Until last week.
In a television interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted to striking first saying that Russia attacked Georgia because the Georgian government was smuggling terrorists across Abkhazia to the Russian border near Sochi. As columnist and radio talk host Yulia Latynina explains, the part about Georgia smuggling terrorists across a disputed territory virtually controlled by Russia would have been quite a feat.
What is surprising however is that Mr. Putin would let it slip that Russia started the fighting.
Here is more from Yulia Latynina:
During an interview on RT television last week, President Vladimir Putin made a truly sensational statement by revealing the real reason for the Russia-Georgia war of August 2008. Apparently, Russia delivered a preventative strike to liquidate international terrorists who were sent by Georgian forces to penetrate Russian territory. Putin said the terrorists advanced to positions 30 kilometers south of Sochi before they were eliminated.
“About six or seven years ago when we had to attack Georgian territories, those were not just strikes on Georgia. We targeted militant groups that came very close to Sochi. … Georgian police vehicles were transporting the militants to the Russian border. So we had to take some preemptive measures. And I informed the president [Dmitry Medvedev] about this,” Putin said.
First of all, Putin’s timeline is all wrong. Russia’s war with Georgia was five years ago, not six or seven. There were no other military conflicts between the two countries during Medvedev’s presidency except the five-day war in 2008.
This is not the first time that Putin has a made a surprising statement intended to show how well-informed Russia’s intelligence agencies are. Instead, however, everyone was left wondering, “What are those people smoking?”