The leader of Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia has set Friday July 17 as the date for a referendum on joining Russia.
“Anatoly Bibilov signed a decree on holding a referendum in the Republic of South Ossetia“, his office said in a statement, citing his people’s “historic aspiration” to join Russia. South Ossetia was at the center of the Russo-Georgian war in 2008, after which the Kremlin recognized the territory. , along with another breakaway region, Abkhazia, as an independent state and military bases stationed there. “We are coming home,” Bibilov said on the Telegram messaging app. “The time has come to unite once and for all. South Ossetia and Russia will be together in a great new history,” added the outgoing leader.
Bibilov lost his bid for re-election earlier this month.. Russia has expressed hope that incoming leader Alan Gagloev will preserve “continuity” in ties with Moscow. The announcement came on the 79th day of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine, with thousands dead and more than six million people fleeing the pro-Western country.
Ukraine’s breakaway Donetsk and Lugansk regions have also expressed interest in joining Russia. The large-scale offensive on Ukraine has provoked an outpouring of solidarity in Georgia. Georgia has previously denounced South Ossetia’s plans to hold a referendum to join Russia as “unacceptable.”
in August 2008, Russia launched an assault on Georgia who was fighting pro-Russian militia in South Ossetia after they shelled Georgian villages. The fighting ended five days later with a European Union-brokered ceasefire, but claimed more than 700 lives and displaced tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians.