no one cares about the annexation of Tskhinvali. “Georgia fears Russia will” join “South Ossetia amid war with Ukraine

Anatoly Bibilov, president of unrecognized South Ossetia, announced that he planned a referendum on the republic’s membership in the Russian Federation and subsequent unification with North Ossetia into one region. According to Bibilov, such steps allegedly “will increase many times the security of the population of the self-proclaimed republic.”

In Tbilisi, where South Ossetia is considered the illegally occupied Tskhinvali region, Bibilov’s statement sees the threat of annexation of part of Georgian territory. Georgia has reason to think so. Since the five-day war of 2008, Russian border guards have stood on the dividing line between the self-proclaimed republic and Tbilisi-controlled territory.

“The occupation of the territories has not only a political but also a legal assessment. It is the decision of the Strasbourg court that the occupation process continues there. In such conditions, no referendum can have legal force,” said Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani. He also stressed that Tbilisi will not succumb to the provocation of Anatoly Bibilov and will continue to resolve the conflict in the separatist region exclusively by peaceful means.

The main question now is whether the authorities of unrecognized South Ossetia are ready to move from loud statements to action. Georgian non-governmental circles believe that a possible referendum could only be part of Bibilov’s election rhetoric. Whether he will remain for a second term will be decided by a vote scheduled for April 10. In 2017, before the first term, Bibilov had already promised to annex South Ossetia to Russia, but after winning the election he abandoned the issue.

Conflict expert Zurab Bendianishvili is confident that this time Bibilov is serious about joining: “After the election, the initiative will get more concrete. The Russian Duma seems to even announce the date of the referendum. “Nobody cares about Ukraine before the annexation of Tskhinvali. I think Moscow will try to put pressure on Abkhazia and turn it around there.”

Georgian refugee from South Ossetia and civil activist Zaza Tsotniashvili is constantly monitoring the situation in the unrecognized republic and is well aware of how often Moscow’s words diverge from its subsequent actions on the ground:

“The Tskhinvali region is one of the most important military bases for Russia in the South Caucasus region. Unfortunately, our Ossetian population is just an employee of this base. The current war in Ukraine has shown why the Russian Empire needs an Ossetian population. Russia sent these people to fight like cannon fodder. It even provoked a protest on their part. Quite a number of young Ossetians, almost the entire Ossetian gene pool, were called to war with Ukraine. “

In Moscow itself, the statement of the leader of unrecognized South Ossetia was responded to, it seems, without much enthusiasm. Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Russia had not taken any legal or other action for a possible referendum, although it respected the people of the region.

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