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In South Ossetia, on July 17, a referendum on joining Russia will be held, the corresponding decree was signed by the outgoing president of the self-proclaimed republic, Anatoly Bibilov.
The question put to the vote looks like this: “Do you support the unification of the Republic of South Ossetia and Russia?”
The leader of the breakaway republic from Georgia signed a decree on a referendum, “guided by the historical desire of the people of the Republic of South Ossetia to reunite with Russia,” his website says.
“Today, the CEC unanimously supported the initiative to join South Ossetia to Russia. The documents have been submitted to the court. We are waiting for the court’s decision and our big dream will come true very soon,” Bibilov wrote in his Telegram channel.
Russian officials have not yet commented on Bibilov’s announcement.
According to the results of the second round of the presidential elections, which took place on May 8, Bibilov lost to the opposition candidate, the leader of the Nykhas party, Alan Gagloev.
The election came amid mixed reactions to sending South Ossetians to war in Ukraine on Russia’s side. At least seven natives of South Ossetia have already died there. At the end of March, it was reported about the return of about 300 military personnel to the republic from the territory of the Russian military base located on it.
Moscow recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after the Russian-Georgian war in August 2008. There is a Russian military base in South Ossetia and the region is heavily dependent on Russian financial assistance. For example, last year it amounted to almost 83% of the republic’s budget revenues. Tbilisi, as well as the vast majority of countries in the world, consider Abkhazia and South Ossetia to be the territory of Georgia.
Why the initiative was considered pre-election PR
Before the elections, both contenders for the presidency made no secret of their loyalty to Moscow. Therefore, when Anatoly Bibilov announced the initiative to hold a referendum at the end of March, he was not taken seriously. The idea of holding a referendum provoked a restrained reaction from Moscow. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at the time that he could not express “any position.”
In South Ossetia, Bibilov’s rivals called it another pre-election PR of the incumbent president, who had previously focused on the popular idea of joining Russia in the self-proclaimed republic.
Alan Gagloev said that there were no fundamental disagreements on the topic of the referendum, but it should take place when not only South Ossetia, but also Russia is ready for it.
“The reunification of a divided people within Russia is too important a topic to make it the subject of pre-election manipulation of people’s minds. I said during the first round of debates and I repeat now that the referendum will be held when not only South Ossetia, but this step will be timely for the Russian Federation and will not put the leadership of our strategic partner in an ambiguous position,” Gagloev said .
Bibilov’s initiative was designed more for an internal audience without much prospect of achieving a real result, some analysts said.