The self-proclaimed president of the separatist region has said that South Ossetia will hold a referendum to join Russia, Al Jazeera notes.
The leader of the Georgian separatist region of South Ossetia has set July 17 as the date for a referendum on accession to Russia.
“Anatoly Bibilov has signed a decree on holding a referendum in the Republic of South Ossetia,” his office said in a statement, citing the “historic aspirations” of its people to join Russia.
South Ossetia has been at the center of the 2008 Russian-Georgian war, along with another separatist region, Abkhazia.
After the war, Russia and a handful of other countries recognized South Ossetia as an independent state, but most of the world still considers it part of Georgia.
“I succeeded!” South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov wrote in the Telegram on Friday, announcing that he had signed a decree setting the referendum for July 17.
“In legal terms, we have met another important legal requirement. And in normal language, we took a life-changing step – we go home, we go to Russia. The time has come to unite once and for all… South Ossetia and Russia will be together. This is the beginning of a new and great story. “
Bibilov was not re-elected this month. Russia has expressed hope that the new leader, Alan Gagloev, will maintain “continuity” in relations with Moscow.
The announcement came on the 79th day of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, killing thousands and fleeing more than six million people from the pro-Western country.
The Ukrainian separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk have also expressed interest in joining Russia. A large-scale offensive against Ukraine sparked a show of solidarity in Georgia.
Georgia has previously denounced South Ossetia’s plans to hold a referendum on joining Russia as “unacceptable”.
In August 2008, Russia launched an assault on Georgia, which is fighting pro-Russian fighters in South Ossetia after they bombed Georgian villages.
The fighting ended five days later with a ceasefire mediated by the European Union, but claimed more than 700 lives and displaced tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians.
The referendum broadly follows the Crimean model. After Russia confiscated the Black Sea peninsula in 2014, which belonged to Ukraine, a referendum was held on joining Russia and it is said that 97 percent voted in favor of it.
The referendum took place while Crimea was under the control of Russian troops, and the result was not recognized by most countries. Russia then annexed Crimea.
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