Moscow - A group of retired Russian generals has accused Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of indecision during Moscow's 2008 war with Georgia, the most serious attack on the country's No. 2 politician since he stepped down as president in May.
The group, which included the former Chief of the General Staff, spoke in a documentary “The lost day” which circulated on the Internet in the run-up to the four-year anniversary of the war.
The criticism comes at a time when analysts are on the look-out for signs that Medvedev, who is increasingly seen as a liability for President Vladimir Putin after the two decided to swap jobs last September, may be further sidelined.
Russia sent its army to the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia in August 2008 after Georgian forces attacked it, saying they wanted to restore constitutional order. Georgia says Russian-backed separatists provoked the attack to lure it into a trap. Moscow says it was defending the civilian population.
The criticism of Medvedev came as he flew to Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, to take part in a commemoration event.
The sharpest words came from former Chief of General Staff Yuri Baluyevsky.
“From my point of view, the Commander-in-Chief should have said one word: 'Act in accordance with the plan,'“ Baluyevsky said. “This primary order is the most important thing and this order was issued with huge delay.”
At the time of the attack, then Prime Minister Putin was at the Olympic Games in Beijing.
“I am convinced, until there was a kick from Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) in Beijing, everyone here, speaking politely, was afraid of something,” Baluyevsky said.
Medvedev sacked Baluyevsky, who now advises Russia's national Security Council chaired by Putin, two months before the war.
Putin said on Wednesday that the Russian plan - on how to respond to a Georgian attack on South Ossetia - was prepared by the General Staff between the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007.
Medvedev on Wednesday defended his behaviour at the time.
“This decision (to send the army to Georgia) was taken on time, quickly enough, we managed to avoid significantly bigger losses. I managed to take the decision which restored balance and brought peace,” Medvedev said in Tskhinvali.
Many analysts believe that Medvedev's government is short-lived and that he will be made a scapegoat should the economic situation in Russia deteriorate as the result of a global crisis.
“The hawks are attacking Medvedev. They do not like him because they believe that the political rallies of the last few months are the result of his flirtation with the liberal-minded opposition,” said analyst Pavel Salin.
The documentary, whose authors are not identified but whose style resembles anti-opposition propaganda films aired on state TV channels during the election campaign, pitched “weak” Medvedev against the “real leader” Putin.
Putin commented twice on the documentary, an unusually high degree of attention for an Internet video.
Giga Bokeria, Georgia's national security council secretary, said it was high time that Putin admitted that Russia had been preparing an attack on Georgia for years. - Reuters