A group of Russian officials arrived in Tskhinvali today as a South Ossetian initiative group has kicked off campaign for Russia’s annexation of the occupied region.
Russian Senator Alexander Karelin, Head of Russia’s North Ossetia Sergey Menyailo, Head of Kabardino-Balkaria Kazbek Kokov, Stavropol Governor Vladimir Vladimirov, Karachay-Cherkessian Parliament Chair Alexander Ivanov, and Russian Federal Assembly Member Taimuraz Mamsurov were among the guests today pushing forward annexation.
At an inaugural campaign event held in the Drama Theater in Tskhinvali, both former and incumbent S. Ossetian leaders that are part of the initiative group, as well as the Russian officials have addressed the audience.
Incumbent leader Anatoly Bibilov, who is seeking reelection on April 10, noted at the event that S. Ossetia is on the verge of a big historic event.
“We are not just witnesses to it — we are with you right here and right now making history! South Ossetia to be with Russia!” said Bibilov.
“We need to get 2,000 signatures, but we will collect many more. We need to show the whole world that the people of South Ossetia are for joining Russia.”
In his turn, North Ossetia’s Menyailo claimed that Ossetians of both north and south “have never felt any borders between us.”
Russian Senator Alexander Karelin, on his part, spoke of the need for S. Ossetians to show an “expected result” in the planned referendum. “Russia will respond, I can assure you of that,” he stated.
“We will treat this decision with respect, and your expression of will be accepted at a worthy level,” Head of Kabardino-Balkaria Kazbek Kokov addressed Tskhinvali residents.
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Anatoly Bibilov announced on March 30 that his regime will take “appropriate legal steps in the near future” to seize the moment of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and achieve Moscow’s annexation of the region. He made similar annexation pledges many times before.
An array of Russian politicians promptly welcomed the announcement, with ruling United Russia’s Andrei Klimov suggesting that Tskhinvali should first hold a referendum, after which there will be “no legal obstacles” for the annexation.
Bibilov later said plebiscite would take place in a few weeks after the April 10 vote.
Georgia reacted that “it is unacceptable to discuss any referendums while Georgia’s territory is occupied by Russia.”
Moscow recognized the independence of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region on August 26, 2008, two weeks after the end of the Russo-Georgian war. Tbilisi and most of the international community regard the two regions as part of Georgia.
As things stand, some 30 thousand ethnic Georgians remain uprooted from Tskhinvali Region following the armed conflict in 1991-92 and the Russo-Georgian War of 2008.
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