MOSCOW, July 24 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will respond harshly to any actions by foreign countries that threaten the interests of its citizens, the Russian president said on Friday.
"We must be able to respond to challenges. Sometimes respond harshly. Sometimes very harshly. But only if there is a threat to the interests of our citizens," Dmitry Medvedev said in an interview with NTV to be aired in full on Sunday.
"In all other situations we should be a predictable, strong and easy partner for our neighbors," he said.
Medvedev also appeared to echo U.S. President Joe Biden's promise to the Georgian parliament on Thursday that any improvement in U.S.-Russian relations would not "come at the expense of Georgia."
"We need normal, business-like, friendly relations with the United States," the president said, adding that these relations should not "lead to a worsening of relations with other countries."
Biden reiterated Washington's unstinting support for Tbilisi and urged Moscow to withdraw its troops from South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which had been brought in to "protect Russian citizens" there. The majority of South Ossetians and Abkhazians hold Russian passports.
Russia recognized the two republics' independence last August after expelling Georgian forces from South Ossetia, which Tbilisi had attacked in an effort to bring it back under central control.