Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reiterated on Thursday that he would never talk to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, but said he would gladly talk to any elected successor.
Last August, Russia sent troops to Georgia to repel the ex-Soviet republic's attempt to restore its control over the pro-Moscow breakaway province of South Ossetia. Despite Western protests, Russia subsequently recognised South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent states.
Saakashvili, who seeks to end Georgia's dependence on Russia and make it a member of the Western NATO alliance and the European Union, accused Russia of setting out to destroy Georgia's territorial integrity.
Medvedev told students at the London School of Economics:
"We want to have good relations with Georgia, but I do not want to have any relations with President Saakashvili and will not deal with him. "But if the authorities change sooner or later, as part of a democratic process, we are ready to discuss any themes with them."Medvedev, answering a question by a Georgian student, said Russia was not to blame for the conflict.
"The Georgian authorities are to blame for everything that happened," Medvedev said. "When I became president, I met Saakashvili and said we are ready to help restore territorial integrity, but he has to behave correctly."
"Warfare never helped to strengthen the state," he added. Georgia is a major element souring Russia's relations with the West and specifically with the United States, which backed Georgia in the conflict.
Medvedev has agreed to "press a reset button" on bilateral relations with new U.S. President Barack Obama, whom he met for the first time on Wednesday on the sidelines of a G20 conference of leading and emerging economies in London. The declaration signed by Medvedev and Obama in London said they continued to disagree over Georgia, but would work together to restore stability in the South Caucasus.