Georgians on Tuesday marked the anniversary of a 2008 war with Russia in which some 400 of their compatriots died, as the prime minister branded Moscow an “aggressor”.

Russia sent thousands of troops into Georgia on August 8, 2008 after Tbilisi launched a large-scale military operation against South Ossetian separatists who had been shelling Georgian villages.

“We have known for a long time that Russia was an aggressor, we know that and the whole world knows that,” Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili said at a wreath-laying ceremony to remember the dead at a cemetery in the capital Tbilisi.

Russia routed Georgia’s small army, occupying large swathes of territory for five days before a ceasefire was mediated by the then French president Nicolas Sarkozy.

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The prime minister, who has been criticised by the opposition for having pro-Russian leanings, attended the ceremony alongside tearful mourners.

“My brother fought for his homeland,” said Vasiko Birtvelishvili, whose brother Zaza was killed during the war.

“He has fought against the injustices that we are still facing today,” he told reporters.

- Harshly punished -

Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, who authorised the military action in 2008, defended Moscow’s actions in a statement marking the anniversary.

“Our armed forces quickly and harshly punished the arrogant nationalists in five days,” he said on social media.

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Sources told Kyiv Post that various brands of gasoline and diesel fuel with a total volume of 12.5 thousand cubic meters were stored there.

He also criticised the West for backing then Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili, drawing parallels with the West’s support for Kyiv during Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

“As in August 2008, our enemies will be crushed, and Russia will achieve peace on its own terms,” he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Monday that Kyiv stood in solidarity with Tbilisi, adding that Russia would “pay the most” for its aggression.

“Ukrainians stand in solidarity with the people of Georgia, and I thank all Georgian citizens who are defending freedom with us,” Zelensky said.

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Hundreds of soldiers and civilians from both sides were killed during the 2008 war. The United Nations said around 120,000 people were displaced, though many returned to their homes afterwards.

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