The leader of South Ossetia on Friday called a referendum on July 17 for that separatist region of Georgia to decide on its integration with Russia.
“Anatoli Bibilov signed a decree on holding a referendum in the Republic of South Ossetia,” the leader’s cabinet said, mentioning the “historical aspiration” of the inhabitants of that Caucasian region to join Russia.
“We are coming home,” Bibilov said in a message on Telegram.
“It is time to unite once and for all. South Ossetia and Russia will be together. It is the beginning of a new and great history,” added the outgoing leader, who was defeated at the polls earlier this month.
Russia, however, expressed its expectation of “continuity”, under the management of the next leader of that separatist zone, Alan Gagloev.
South Ossetia and Georgia clashed in 2008 in an armed conflict after Russia recognized the independence of the separatists as well as that of Abkhazia, another Georgian region.
Bibilov called the referendum on the 79th day of Russia’s offensive against Ukraine, which has left thousands dead and forced more than six million Ukrainians to flee the country.
The breakaway Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Lugansk have also expressed their intention to join Russia.