Dmitry Medvedev issues warning to ex-Soviet states
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev issued harsh warnings to the country's ex-Soviet neighbours in an interview heavy with nationalism that aired on Russia's three state-run television channels late on Wednesday.
By Miriam Elder in Moscow
Last Updated: 8:22PM GMT 24 Dec 2008
Mr Medvedev said relations with Ukraine had never been worse.
"Russia's interest must be secured by all means available," Mr Medvedev said, saying if tools of compromise didn't work then an "element of force" would be necessary.
"If there is an attack on the lives and dignity of Russian citizens, then Russia's position will be simple and rather tough. It will be to protect and stand up for the interests of our citizens wherever they may be," he said.
The program, an interview with the heads of Russia's three state-run television stations, opened with angry words over the August war with Georgia and closed with Mr Medvedev revelling in Russia's success in sports over the past year.
In between, he attempted to calm an increasingly anxious population that the financial crisis sweeping the country would not affect social services.
The interviewed allowed the president, who has often been seen as the more liberal of the country's ruling duo, to highlight his role as commander-in-chief, and issue harsh challenges to the leadership in Georgia and Ukraine.
Mr Medvedev said relations with Ukraine had never been worse, and accused the country's leadership of aiding Georgia in its war with Russia over South Ossetia.
He warned Ukraine that it would face sanctions if it failed to pay its debt to Gazprom by the New Year. Gazprom has threatened to cut gas to Ukraine, warning Europe could be affected, if it fails to pay the debt.
"It's embarrassing to watch," Mr Medvedev said, of the Ukrainian government. "They should pay the money to the last rouble."
His comments were interspersed with highly nationalistic video footage – from Russian tanks rolling through South Ossetia, to Topol-M missiles, to images of people celebrating the country's unexpectedly good showing in the World Cup.
Mr Medvedev appeared tepid on one point only – his co-operation with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, the man who hand-picked him for the Kremlin spot.
When asked how his relationship with Mr Putin was, Mr Medvedev said: "I have friendly relations with the premier, we meet regularly. The decision that we took to work together was right, and rather effective."
The Russian leadership is facing increasing discontent as the financial crisis leads to mass layoffs and a quickly devaluing rouble