The authorities of the pro-Russian Georgian separatist region of South Ossetia announced on Friday that they would organize a referendum on July 17 on its integration into Russia.

“President” Anatoly Bibilov “has signed a decree on holding a referendum in the Republic of South Ossetia”, his services said in a statement, referring to the “historic aspiration” of the inhabitants of this small Caucasian territory to join Russia, of which it is bordering. “We are going home,” commented Anatoly Bibilov on Telegram messaging.

“Unite once and for all”

“The time has come to unite once and for all”, “South Ossetia and Russia will be together. This is the start of a great new story,” he added. Anatoly Bibilov failed to seek re-election as ‘president’ earlier this month and Russia has expressed hope that his successor in the post, Alan Gagloyev, will ensure ‘continuity’ in relations with Moscow .

South Ossetia was at the center of the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, following which the Kremlin recognized its independence as well as that of another Georgian breakaway region, Abkhazia, and set up bases there military.

The announcement of the upcoming referendum was made on the 79th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The separatist Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, whose independence has also been recognized by Moscow, have also expressed their interest in integrating with Russia. The offensive against Ukraine has sparked an outpouring of solidarity in Georgia.

The latter had already in the past qualified as “unacceptable” the project of South Ossetia to organize a referendum on its entry into the Russian Federation. In August 2008, Russia attacked Georgia whose government was fighting pro-Russian militias in that region after they bombed Georgian villages. The fighting ended after five days with the establishment of a European Union-brokered ceasefire, but left more than 700 dead and displaced tens of thousands of ethnic Georgians.

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