S. Ossetian Leader Suspends Russian Annexation Referendum

New leader of Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia Alan Gagloev today issued a decree to suspend the July 17 referendum on “unification” with Russia until further consultations with Moscow.

The decree cited the “uncertainty of the legal consequences of the issue submitted to a referendum” by previous leader Anatoly Bibilov as one of the reasons for the suspension.

The document also recognized “the inadmissibility of a unilateral decision of a referendum on issues affecting the legitimate rights and interests of the Russian Federation.”

Gagloev also ordered an immediate launch of consultations with Moscow on “the entire range of issues related to the further integration” of the Tskhinvali Region with Russia.

The decree also set up a delegation tasked with leading the talks with Moscow, comprised of Tskhinvali leader Alan Gagloev, chair of legislature Alan Tadtaev, chair of top court Olesya Kochieva, chair of election administration Emilia Gagieva, acting chief diplomat Dmitry Medoev and advisor to the “president” Konstantin Kochiev.

The development comes a day after Gagloev questioned the clarity of the referendum question in talks with the ex-lawmakers from the first convocation of the separatist South Ossetian legislature.

“If the question was ‘do you agree to join the Russian Federation as a subject’ everything would be clear,” Tskhinvali-based RES news agency had cited Gagloev as telling former S. Ossetian lawmakers.

Gagloev had argued the question’s “wording sounded different” when his predecessor Anatoly Bibilov first proposed the referendum in the lead-up to the 2022 “presidential” vote.

The Tskhinvali leader had said the authorities could “find opportunities” and possibly take a loan of the necessary RUB 32.5 million (USD 500 thousand) to hold the referendum “if Russia would be ready to accept us into its composition,” the RES news agency reported.

Gagloev’s remarks had come after Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on May 24 found fault with the wording of the referendum question, arguing it suggested that Tskhinvali was considering “the creation of some third state.”

About the annexation referendum, the Kremlin spokesperson had also claimed then that “no steps have been taken in this case from the Russian side in this regard and are not planned.”

Former Tskhinvali leader on May 13 formally ordered the referendum, a move coming some ten days before he left office and by the time he had been already voted out in the “presidential runoffs” of May 8. He called the referendum unilaterally, without consulting then-incoming leader Gagloev.

Gagloev had taken a cautious stance immediately after Bibilov made clear his intentions to hold the referendum, arguing that the occupied region “joining” Russia was not at the moment in favor of Moscow, which is leading its months-long full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the central Georgian Government has said that “it is unacceptable to discuss any referendums while Georgia’s territory is occupied by Russia.”

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