Georgia breakaway region to vote on joining Russia

The leader of Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia set July 17 as a 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 centre of the Russian-Georgian war in 2008 territory, along with another separatist region, Abkhazia.

After the war, Russia and a handful of other countries recognised South Ossetia as an independent state, but most of the world still considers it to be part of Georgia.

“We did it!” South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov wrote on Telegram on Friday, announcing he signed a decree setting the referendum for July 17.

“In legalese, we fulfilled yet another important legal requirement. And in normal language, we took a life-changing step – we are going home, we are going to Russia. The time has come to unite once and for all … South Ossetia and Russia will be together. This is the start of a big new story.”

Bibilov lost his bid for re-election earlier this month. Russia has expressed hope the incoming leader, Alan Gagloev, will preserve “continuity” in ties with Moscow.

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