The largest share of Russians think the 2008 military conflict between their country and Georgia was initiated by the West and Georgias pro-Western leadership while Russian authorities did all they could to prevent bloodshed.
In a poll conducted by the Russian independent think-tank Levada on the eve of the 10th anniversary of the war in South Ossetia, researchers asked members of the Russian public who, in their opinion, bore principal responsibility for the military conflict. Some 34 percent said that it was the president and government of Georgia, 24 percent pinned the blame on the United States and NATO and 20 percent said that the responsibility should be shared by all parties.
Only five percent of respondents agreed that the initiation of the military conflict was Russias fault and three percent said the blame lay with the leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Some 59 percent of those polled told researchers that they believe Russian leaders did everything they could to prevent the armed conflict. However, 22 percent feel that Russia reacted to a provocation on Georgias part and “allowed itself to be dragged into the conflict.”
When researchers asked Russian citizens how well they remembered the 2008 war in South Ossetia, 23 percent answered that they knew its history in detail, 56 percent confessed to possessing only basic knowledge of the conflict and 18 percent answered that they had never heard of the events.
The short-term military conflict between Russia and Georgia started on August 8, 2008 after Georgian forces launched an attack against the self-proclaimed Republic of South Ossetia and a contingent of Russian peacekeepers who remained in the region on a license from the Commonwealth of Independent States political bloc. Russias military intervened to defend civilians and peacekeepers, repelled the Georgian aggressors, but did not advance further into Georgias territory.
Following the conflict, Moscow and several other countries recognized South Ossetia and another breakaway republic – Abkhazia – as independent states.
Earlier this week, Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev, who was Russian president in 2008, recalled his role in the conflict in an interview with the popular daily Kommersant. He said that the war could had been avoided, were it not for the actions of the Georgian authorities.
“If it was not for the irresponsible, immoral and criminal behavior of [Back then Georgian president Mikheil] Saakashvili and his henchmen there would be no war. In 2008 the Georgian government and president gave a green light to the aggression and what happened, happened,” he said.
Medvedev also emphasized that during the conflict Russia did not intend to destroy Georgia or execute Saakashvili, but only acted to prevent the very real possibility of a further escalation of violence.
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