Anatoly Bibilov, President of the Republic of South Ossetia, located on the southern border of Russia, which had previously declared its unilateral separation from Georgia in 1990 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, renewed his demand to join Russia.
On Friday, Bibilov signed a decree to hold a popular referendum on July 17 on the accession of South Ossetia to Russia, describing the move as “fateful.”
“We go home, we go to Russia,” Bibilov said, via his Telegram channel.
The Russian State Duma deputy, Artur Timazov, welcomed the decision, which he considered the beginning of following the path of the Crimea in its union with Russia.
This proposal was not the first from South Ossetia since the beginning of the Ukrainian war, as its president expressed in March his intention to organize a referendum on integration with Russia, stressing that it is an old dream of the Ossetians and a strategic goal.
And the American newspaper “Washington Post” considered that this trend in several regions of Europe – some of which were in the circle of the Soviet Union – threatens the security and unity of the European continent.
What is the story of Ossetia?
South Ossetia is located in central Georgia to the north, separated by mountains from North Ossetia, and after it was administered by a self-governing system, it declared secession from Georgia, which was part of the Soviet Union, after the dissolution of the union in 1990, and Russia rushed to recognize it as an independent state.
Ossetia entered into wars with Georgia, which began in 1991 and 1992, with the latter’s attempt to recover Ossetia, and clashes returned between 2004 and 2008, in which Russia intervened on the side of Ossetia, especially with Georgia’s announcement of its intention to join the European Union and NATO.
Objectives of the referendum
According to Masoud Maalouf, a former diplomat and expert on American affairs, “South Ossetia has a population of no more than 55 thousand people, most of whom are of Russian origin, so they want to get closer to Russia because their country is only recognized by Russia, Syria, Venezuela and Nicaragua.”
Moscow deployed its forces there, granted Russian citizenship to Ossetians, and concluded joint agreements.
As for the reasons for Ossetia’s renewal of its demand to join Russia, Maalouf explains to “Sky News Arabia” that Ossetia tried to hold the referendum after secession from Georgia, but Moscow asked it to slow down to prevent an increase in tension with the West after the war with Georgia.
Now, given the raging crisis between Russia and the West against the backdrop of the Ukraine war, Moscow is no longer afraid of this tension, and the referendum becomes a Russian reaction to the West, according to Maalouf.
He finds that the referendum carries two messages from Russia, the first to the Russian people by emphasizing that their country is still a great power that has the ability to expand, and has not been isolated, and the second message is to Georgia so that it does not seek to approach the West, even though the Georgian government avoids angering Russia so as not to pull it. to invade it, as happened with Ukraine.
After the outbreak of the Ukraine war, Georgia maintained its neutrality, refusing to join the West in imposing sanctions against Moscow, and barring volunteers from participating in the war.
Maalouf does not expect that the referendum will make a difference in Russia’s strategy in Ukraine, but it will increase tension with the West because Washington rejects Putin’s attempts to restore former Soviet influence.