Russian president says military will defend itself but halts operations

August 12, MSNBC

TBLISI, Georgia - Russian President Dmitri Medvedev ordered an end to the military operation in Georgia on Tuesday.

In a nationally televised speech, Medvedev said the military has punished Georgia and restored security for civilians and Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia.

But he ordered the military Tuesday to defend itself and quash any aggressive action and armed resistance from Georgian forces.

"I have taken the decision to bring to an end the operation to force the Georgian authorities to peace," Medvedev told Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, according to a Kremlin spokesman.

Earlier, Russia's foreign minister said that Georgia's president must leave office and Georgian troops should stay out of the breakaway South Ossetia region for good.

Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Moscow won't talk to President Mikhail Saakashvili and that Saakashvili had "better go."

Both Russian statements came as French President Nicolas Sarkozy headed to Moscow Tuesday to negotiate an EU-brokered truce for the fierce conflict over the breakaway region.

Sarkozy was aiming to win Kremlin backing for a joint European Union-OSCE cease-fire plan which Georgia says it has already accepted.

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photo: Georgians run for safety after a Russian rocket hit a Georgian troop convoy just outside Gori on Monday (Dimitar Dilkoff / AFP-Getty Images)