May 15, 2022
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South Ossetia will again knock on Russian doors in the summer

In the photo: the current President of South Ossetia Anatoly Bibilov and the Minister of Defense of South Ossetia Vladimir Pukhaev (from left to right) against the backdrop of the Russian flag

In the photo: the current President of South Ossetia Anatoly Bibilov and the Minister of Defense of South Ossetia Vladimir Pukhaev (from left to right) in front of the Russian flag (Photo: Valery Sharifulin / TASS)

The referendum on the entry of South Ossetia into Russia is to be held in the republic on July 17, as stated on the website of the incumbent president Anatoly Bibilov. The report states that the head of state made the decision “guided by the historical desire of the people of the Republic of South Ossetia to reunite with Russia.”

According to the decree, the ballots for the upcoming plebiscite will include the question: “Do you support the unification of the Republic of South Ossetia and Russia?”

Anatoly Bibilov himself wrote in his telegram channel that “Another legal requirement has been fulfilled in the language of the law,” after which he added that the people of the republic have taken a fateful step – “We are going home, we are going to Russia.”

The President of the Republic emphasized that he kept his word in front of his people, noting that he was proud to be a participant in this process. He also recalled the common history of Russia and South Ossetia, whose relationship, in his words, “is not just partnership or friendship.” “It’s more like a trusting relationship between two brothers, where the older brother will always understand and support in word and deed, and the younger one will honor and help the older one,” Bibilov said.

In fact, the decision to hold a referendum is a key one for Anatoly Bibilov as president of South Ossetia. On May 8, he lost in the second round of the presidential election. Alan Gagloevcandidate from the opposition Nykhas party. The inauguration of the new president of South Ossetia is scheduled for May 21.

It must be said that Bibilov expressed his intention to hold a referendum on joining Russia back in March of this year. Alan Gagloev previously stressed that holding such a vote is “the will of the people”, and Moscow and Tskhinval need to “check positions”. On May 13, the Supreme Court of the republic made a positive decision to hold a plebiscite.

South Ossetia declared independence on August 26, 2008 after a five-day Russian-Georgian armed conflict, as a result of which Tbilisi lost the chance to control its territory (as well as the territory of Abkhazia).

Political scientist, Associate Professor of the Financial University under the Government of Russia Gevorg Mirzayan does not rule out that the leadership of South Ossetia simply considered the current situation extremely successful for realizing the long-standing aspirations of its population.

– The authorities of the republic may have decided that in the current situation they will be able to reunite with North Ossetia within the framework of the Russian Federation, since the territories of the Zaporozhye, Kharkiv, Odessa, Nikolaev regions are coming, the integration of the Kherson region is already in full swing, which is switching to the Russian ruble. Watching this, the South Ossetian authorities probably came to the conclusion that the moment has come for them too.

“SP”: – The Russian government also considers the current moment successful?

– First of all, it is not yet entirely clear whether this step was agreed with the Russian leadership. If there was, then, perhaps, Moscow also had some information on this score from the players involved in the situation. For example, it is obvious that the leadership of Georgia, to put it mildly, will not be delighted with such a step, given all the background. Perhaps there are some agreements that Tbilisi will express indignation, will be indignant for some time, but then everything will calm down.

If this is the own initiative of the leading circles of the republic, then, as it seems to me, the time has been chosen extremely unsuccessfully. Since the Georgian authorities in the conditions of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict take a rather constructive position and, as you know, do not join the anti-Russian sanctions. And we should not complicate bilateral relations at such a difficult moment, we should demonstrate that Russia knows how to appreciate a constructive approach. In addition, I want to remind you that in fact, in many respects, South Ossetia is already integrated into the Russian Federation.

“SP”: – That is, the announcement of this referendum cannot be aimed at pushing Moscow to deepen integration?

– The Republic has already been integrated into our country to the maximum and for quite a long time: culturally, economically, economically.

“SP”: – Can there be a search for external ill-wishers here?

– Of course not. There simply cannot be any influence of our external adversaries – Great Britain, the USA – on the decision-making by the authorities of South Ossetia. This is out of the question.

Political scientist, director of the International Institute of Recent States Alexei Martynov recalled that a referendum on joining Russia had already been held in South Ossetia.

– It was held on January 19, 1992, when 99% of the inhabitants spoke in favor of sovereignty and joining Russia. Then in 2011 there was a vote to give Russian the status of a state language. So there is no need for a new procedure. Nothing has changed in the position of the citizens of South Ossetia over the years.

“SP”: – Why then Bibilov announced this referendum?

– There, almost every elected president considers it his duty to promise voters to hold such a popular vote and resolve the issue of joining Russia with Moscow. This gives him political points. Let me remind you that in 2016 Bibilov’s predecessor – Leonid Tibilov – also promised to organize this procedure. In this case, Bibilov fulfills his promise. The fact is that the South Caucasus is a rather complex region, there is a lot intertwined in terms of relations, connections, traditions and much more. Let’s say a former president Eduard Kokoityduring the reign of which the war of 2008 fell, he could not fulfill all his promises and was forced to leave the republic. So Bibilov, too, despite losing the election, is trying to secure a future for himself in his homeland.

“SP”: – But Russia is not opposed to accepting the republic into its composition?

– Of course not. But there are no nuances that would dictate urgency in this matter. Security is provided by the Russian military. Economically, South Ossetia is also closely connected with us. It is necessary to resolve the question – how will the entry be carried out – as a separate region or will it be a joint entity with North Ossetia. If joint, where will the capital be located.

“SP”: – There is still a danger of aggravating relations with Georgia during a military special operation in Ukraine.

– And this, of course, too. The point is not that Tbilisi hopes to return South Ossetia to its own composition – they have already come to terms with its loss. It’s just that in the conditions of the Russophobic bacchanalia in the world, it is pursuing a surprisingly reasonable policy, guided, of course, primarily by a pragmatic approach. And for Russia today it is important not to create an additional hotbed of tension, not to complicate relations.

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