Kremlin-backed leader of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov, who is seeking reelection on April 10, announced yesterday that his regime will take “appropriate legal steps in the near future” to ensure “unification” with Russia. Comments made later by Russian and de facto South Ossetian officials suggest that a referendum should precede before Moscow annexes the region. Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani reacted that “it is unacceptable to discuss any referendums while Georgia’s territory is occupied by Russia.”
Below are comments by Russian politicians serving as cheerleaders of Moscow’s prospective annexation of the Georgian region, from where some 30 thousand ethnic Georgians remain uprooted as a result of Russian occupation:
“We have not taken any legal or other actions in this regard. But at the same time, in this case, we are talking about expressing the opinion of the people of South Ossetia, we treat it with respect.”
South Ossetia and Abkhazia have the right to hold a referendum and now is the right time to carry out all legal procedures, Kalashnikov, told TASS: “As for an outsider’s view of it, they (South Ossetia and Abkhazia – TASS note) have long been, in fact, integrated into Russia in terms of security, economic support. Of course, it is better for it to be transparent for Russia. If the question arises tomorrow, I would react positively to it. We need to carry out legal procedures for this, and it seems to me that the moment for this is quite appropriate. It will not get any worse, as they say.”
“All these years, the residents of South Ossetia have one dream – to be part of the Russian Federation. They consider this very important for the future of their land, their children and grandchildren,” Vodolatsky believes. – If the President of South Ossetia addresses the parliament of the republic now and the latter in turn announces a referendum, then 99.9% of the inhabitants of South Ossetia will come and vote for becoming a part of the Russian Federation… The same procedure will be carried out that was once done in Crimea, which today feels comfortable returning home. South Ossetia also wants to return home.”
“The Ossetian people are a divided nation. And today’s statement by the head of the republic is an opportunity for Ossetians to become one big nation. This decision gives them the right to self-determination, the opportunity to determine both their future and the vector of development. And this is a very important moment for us because in 2008 Russia showed its position on those borders, those red lines of the Russian world, and began to openly resist Westernization, the pressure of the united West. Of course, this is a historic event. I think both the people of Russia and that of South Ossetia will support this decision. It will be historic for us.”
“Chairman of the Investigative Committee noted the relevance of Bibilov’s initiative to take legal steps aimed at resolving the issue of the possible accession of the republic to Russia. Bastrykin stressed that South Ossetia is a long-standing and important strategic partner of the Russian Federation,” — said the press service of the Russian Investigative Committee.
The question of a referendum on joining Russia “of course, depends on the legislation of South Ossetia itself, their laws are still in force there. But experience shows that for the preparation of the referendum and its conduct are — well, it is difficult for me to speak for them, of course, I do not know the legislation of South Ossetia so well, but — international practice says that a month and a half is the time in which such issues can be well resolved with compliance with all the rules, regulations, principles, approaches, criteria that exist in the world.”
“Ossetians in the South and North have never lost contact with each other, they have never grown apart, remaining a unified people with a single culture, language, and traditions. Throughout different historical periods, politicians have taken decisions that in one way or another have changed the contours of administrative or state borders. But this has never affected the desire of Ossetians to be united as one, a single-family. As a matter of fact, this is how we live: we work in Vladikavkaz, but our home is in Tskhinval[i], on weekends we go there, or vice versa. In the south, there are graves of our ancestors, our architectural and cultural monuments, family towers… We are one people and have never been separated spiritually and mentally!”
“I fully support the statement of the President of the Republic of South Ossetia, Anatoly Ilyich Bibilov, on joining Russia as a strategic goal of the country. The realization of this goal will mean the reunification of the Ossetian people, which historically belongs to the huge and friendly Russian family of peoples. We Crimeans can only welcome the decision of our brothers. Russia is our common home,” Aksenov wrote.
“I am glad that this decision has evolved. As for South Ossetia, … Anatoly Ilyich [Bibilov], here he can only be supported in his aspirations.” Russia’s state-controlled TASS news agency cited him as saying that sooner or later occupied Donetsk will also return to the issue of becoming a part of Russia.