Georgia’s separatist region South Ossetia rejects referendum on joining Russia

Georgia's separatist region has rejected a referendum on joining Russia

Earlier, on May 13, Gaglov’s predecessor signed a decree calling for a referendum on joining Russia.

Tbilisi, Georgia:

The leader of Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia on Monday canceled plans to hold a referendum on joining Russia, which his predecessor had set for July 17.

South Ossetia was at the center of the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 after which the Kremlin recognized the region as an independent state and established military bases there.

In a decree issued Monday, Alan Gaglov, president of the Moscow-controlled enclave, called for “uncertainty about the legal implications of the referendum issue.”

The decree “emphasizes the unacceptability of the unilateral decision of the referendum on issues affecting the legitimate rights and interests of the Russian Federation”.

Gagloyev ordered “without delay, to consult with the Russian side on all matters relating to the further unification of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation”.

On May 13, Gaglov’s predecessor, Anatoly Bibilov, signed a decree calling for a referendum on the region, citing “historic aspirations” to join Russia, his office said at the time.

Bibilov lost his bid for re-election earlier this month. Russia hopes that Gaglov will maintain the “continuity” of relations with Moscow.

Tbilisi has previously condemned South Ossetia’s plan to hold a referendum on joining Russia as “unacceptable”.

– War Crimes –

Monday’s announcement comes on the 96th day of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, where Moscow-backed separatists have expressed interest in joining Russia in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

The full-scale war against Ukraine has spread solidarity in Georgia.

In August 2008, Russian forces launched a full-scale offensive in Georgia, which was battling pro-Russian militias in South Ossetia, after they shelled Georgian villages.

Five days later, an EU-brokered ceasefire ended the war, but more than 700 people were killed and thousands of ethnic Georgians were displaced.

After the war, the Kremlin recognized the independence of South Ossetia and another separatist region, Abkhazia, which has since been under Russian military control.

The conflict marks the end of tensions with the Kremlin over the bid of hardline Western Tbilisi to join the European Union and NATO.

In March, Karim Khan, prosecutor at the Hague-based International Criminal Court, applied for arrest warrants for three current and former South Ossetian officials for war crimes against ethnic Georgians.

Alleged crimes include torture, inhumane treatment, illegal detention, violation of personal dignity, hostage-taking and illegal transfer of people.

Last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia was responsible for post-war human rights abuses.

(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)

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