Breakaway region of Georgia to hold referendum on annexation of Russia

Leaders of South Ossetia, a breakaway region in Georgia, sign a decree to hold a referendum on Russia’s annexation in July.

The office of South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov announced on May 13 that a referendum on joining Russia would be held on July 17, calling it the “historic desire” of people in the region.

“We go home. It’s time to unite us once and for all. South Ossetia and Russia will be together. This is the beginning of a great new story,” Bibilov wrote on Telegram.

Georgia and Russia have not yet commented on the information.

Georgian Foreign Minister David Salkalani has stated that holding any form of referendum on Russia’s annexation in South Ossetia is unacceptable.

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last month Russia had taken no action on the plan but insisted Moscow always respects the opinion of the people of South Ossetia.

South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov in St. Petersburg, Russia, in June 2021. Photo: AFP.

South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov in St. Petersburg, Russia, in June 2021. Image: AFP.

The country of Ossetia in the Caucasus became part of the Russian Empire in 1774. In 1922 the region was split in two, with North Ossetia belonging to Russia and South Ossetia to Georgia. South Ossetia has been secessionist since the early 1990s, and over the past three decades there have been several outbreaks of conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia.

Georgia is a former Soviet country in the Caucasus region, bordering Russia to the north. Russian-Georgian relations have been strained since military conflict erupted in August 2008 when Georgia invaded breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Russia launched a military intervention campaign in Georgia on August 8, 2008 and ended after 5 days of fighting. Georgia suffered heavy casualties in terms of armed forces and defense infrastructure. Russia recognizes the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but most of the international community does not consider it legitimate.

Russia maintains a military presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and insists this is an action in accordance with the wishes of the local people. However, Georgian and Western authorities protested, calling it an “illegal invasion”. Russia and Georgia severed diplomatic ties.

Location of South Ossetia.  Graphics: BBC.

Location of South Ossetia. Graphic: BBC.

Ngoc app (Corresponding Guardian)