A referendum on joining the Russian Federation will be held in the breakaway Georgian South Ossetia region. The office of the head of the region, Anatoly Bibilov, said a similar decree was signed on Friday. The Supreme Court in the capital, Tskhinvali, agreed and decided to hold the referendum on July 17, according to Russia’s state agency TASS.
By arranging the referendum, Bibilo explained, he was responding to the “historical aspirations” of the people of South Ossetia. “We are coming home,” the president of South Ossetia later wrote in the Telegram messenger service, with the goal of possible joining the Russian Federation. Now it’s time to unite us once and for all. The merger of South Ossetia and Russia is “the beginning of a great new history”.
However, Bibilow is about to be replaced as president. Russia has already expressed its hope that his designated successor, Alan Gaglov, will ensure the “continuity” of relations with Moscow.
Bibilow had already spoken about the planned referendum on Russian television at the end of March. The Georgian government had condemned the project as “unacceptable”.
Military conflict of 2008
After a brief military conflict with Georgia in August 2008, Russia officially recognized the independence of the pro-Russian breakaway region and neighboring Abkhazia. Since then, Russian troops are permanently stationed there.
Bibilov’s announcement came against the backdrop of the Russian military operation in Ukraine. Russia began this on February 24 after recognizing the independence of the local pro-Russian “people’s republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk.
In March, Bibilov said he had sent soldiers from South Ossetia to Ukraine “to help protect Russia.” Pro-Russian leaders in Luhansk and Donetsk, such as the president of South Ossetia, announced their intention to join the Russian Federation.
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