Moscow, Apr 10 (EFE).- South Ossetia, a pro-Russian breakaway territory in Georgia, will hold a referendum on joining the Russian Federation, the regional leader told Efe.
“Russia is the historical homeland of the Ossetians. We see the geopolitical threat looming and we want a comprehensive defense for the South Ossetian people, for our republic,” Anatoly Bibilov said in a phone call from Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital.
South Ossetia, whose independence was recognized by the Kremlin in August 2008 after a war with Georgia, already missed an opportunity when Russia annexed the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.
At the time, in order not to further anger the international community, the South Ossetians decided to postpone the vote. This time, despite Russia’s growing isolation, they intend to complete the transition and formally become part of Russia.
THE RUSSIAN SPHERE
“The referendum will not be a complication, as it will show the world that we are with Russia. Even more so now, when many countries, including great powers, are turning their backs on it,” Bibilov explained.
Bibilov, who is running for re-election in the South Ossetian presidential election on Sunday, pointed out that there are many nations that Moscow has helped since the times of the Russian Empire.
“We are all alive thanks to Russia. When Russia is in trouble, all of us become Russians and defend our great country,” he stressed.
The separatist leader, who recently visited the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol, where South Ossetian volunteers on the pro-Russian side are fighting, denounced sanctions and international support for “Ukrainian fascists.”
“The West does not understand that the more it puts pressure on Russia, the more united we will be. They are used to bending the will of other countries, but that will not happen with us. We cannot give up. The more sanctions, the stronger we will be,” he said.
Bibilov insisted that he does not trust Georgia’s statements that it will not resort to force to settle the conflict.
“How can we believe their words if in 2008 they said the same thing and bombed our capital with (missile launchers) while we were sleeping?” he asked.
He recalled that the South Ossetian elites were “completely exterminated” in the 1920s when the USSR decided to divide the Ossetian people into north and south.
Russian peacekeepers put an end to the conflict after the fall of the USSR, but the “brutal aggression” in 2008 by “war criminal” (former Georgian President Mikhail) Saakhasvili re-instigated the conflict, he said.
“The conflict has very long roots. The Ossetian people remain divided,” Bibilov explained.
REFERENDUM IN SIGHT
“The longing to be part of Russia is not the idea of a single politician, but the strategic goal of the South Ossetian people for a hundred years. Reunification has many advantages and no disadvantages,” Bibilov said.
The question that the little more than 50,000 South Ossetians will have to answer will be the following: “Do you support the unification between South Ossetia and Russia?”.
Bibilov recalls that South Ossetia already held other similar plebiscites and that popular support was overwhelming.