Former top-ranking generals in the Russian army have alleged Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev’s indecision while he was president during the 2008 war with Georgia resulted in unnecessary loss of life.
The allegations appear in a 47-minute documentary, “The Lost Day,” which focuses on the events between August 7, when Russian forces reportedly became aware of Georgia’s plan to attack South Ossetia, and August 8, when Georgia attacked and Russia actually sent its forces into South Ossetia and Georgia. The former soldiers say Medvedev’s reluctance to issue the order a day earlier cost the lives of both Russian peacekeepers and local civilians.
“In my opinion, it was necessary for Supreme Commander President Medvedev to say: ‘Act in accordance to the plan I have approved,’” then-Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Army Yury Baluyevsky said in the film. “The most important thing is the initial command. But that initial command was given, unfortunately, far too late.”
A seven-minute preview of the film is posted on YouTube, with the headline, “Medvedev’s Cowardice Killed 1,000 People.” The film features several other high-ranking generals, including a Major-General and a Lieutenant-General, but it remains unclear who produced the film.
Speaking with reporters on Tuesday after a meeting in the Leningrad Region, President Vladimir Putin downplayed the allegations and defended the government's decision-making, saying the option was on the table days before the invasion.
“The decision to use armed forces is a very important decision, because it is the beginning of military activity…people are killed,” he said. “Before making such decisions, one needs to think about it ten times.”
Putin also said he had been in close contact with both Medvedev and Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov during the early days of the war. At the time, he was on a visit to China during the 2008 Summer Olympics.
Russia fought a five-day war in August 2008 with Georgia over the breakaway province of South Ossetia, which broke away from Tbilisi in the early 1990's. South Ossetia was formally recognized by Moscow later in August 2008.
Since then, the area has been recognized as a state only by Russia and a handful of small countries, and while it is de facto independent, is largely reliant on Russian subsidies. Georgia continues to regard it as an occupied territory.