Will South Ossetia join the conflict in Ukraine on July 17?

Anatoly Bibilov, president of the Republic of South Ossetia, located on the southern border of Russia, which had previously unilaterally seceded from Georgia in 1990 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, reiterated his demand to join Russia.

On Friday, Bibilov signed a decree to hold a popular referendum on July 17 on South Ossetia’s accession to Russia, describing the move as “fatal”.

“We are going home, we are going to Russia,” Bibilov said through his Telegram channel.

The deputy to the Russian Duma, Artur Timazov, welcomed the decision, which he considered to be the start of following the Crimea’s path in its union with Russia.

This proposal was not the first from South Ossetia since the start of the Ukrainian war, as in March the president expressed his intention to organize a referendum on integration with Russia, emphasizing that it is an old dream of the Ossetians. and a strategic goal.

And the American newspaper “Washington Post” believed that this trend in several regions of Europe – some of which were in the circle of the Soviet Union – threatens the security and unity of the European continent.

What is the story of Ossetia?

South Ossetia is located in central Georgia to the north, separated by mountains from North Ossetia, and after being governed by a self-governing system, it declared secession from Georgia, which was part of the Soviet Union, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. union in 1990, and Russia hastened to recognize it as an independent state.

Ossetia started wars with Georgia, which started in 1991 and 1992, with the latter’s attempt to retake Ossetia, and between 2004 and 2008, clashes returned, with Russia intervening on Ossetia’s side, especially with Georgia’s announcement of its intention to join the European Union and NATO.

Goals of the referendum

According to Masoud Maalouf, a former diplomat and expert on American affairs, “South Ossetia has a population of no more than 55 thousand people, most of whom are of Russian descent, so they want to get closer to Russia because their country is recognized only by Russia, Syria, Venezuela and Nicaragua.”

Moscow deployed its troops there, granted the Ossetians Russian citizenship and concluded joint agreements.

As for the reasons for Ossetia’s renewed demand to join Russia, Maalouf explains to “Sky News Arabia” that Ossetia tried to hold the referendum after Georgia’s secession, but Moscow asked to delay it to avoid tension with the West increases after the war with Georgia.

Now, given the raging crisis between Russia and the West against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine, Moscow no longer fears this tension and the referendum becomes a Russian response to the West, Maalouf said.

He notes that the referendum contains two messages from Russia, the first to the Russian people by emphasizing that their country is still a great power capable of expanding and not isolated, and the second to Georgia so that it does not try to approach the West, even though the Georgian government avoids angering Russia for not withdrawing to invade it, as has happened with Ukraine.

After the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Georgia maintained its neutrality by refusing to join the West in imposing sanctions on Moscow and barring volunteers from participating in the war.

Maalouf doesn’t expect the referendum to make a difference to Russia’s strategy in Ukraine, but it will increase tension with the West as Washington rejects Putin’s attempts to restore former Soviet influence.

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