Georgia's South Ossetia region might vote on joining Russia
Leaders of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia say they're planning a referendum on joining the Russian Federation, according to Russian state news agency TASS.
Georgians have been anxiously watching Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as it reminds them of Russia's war in Georgia in 2008. Russia gained control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions, recognizing them as independent states.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Thursday played down the news, telling reporters he couldn't voice a position on the matter.
"We haven't taken any legal or other action in this regard," Peskov said. "But at the same time, in this case, we're talking about the people of South Ossetia expressing their opinion, and we respect that."
Earlier, leaders of the self-declared republic of South Ossetia — President Anatoly Bibilov and Parliament Speaker Alan Tadtayev — told Russian state media that the self-declared republic could hold a referendum to join Russia soon, possibly later this spring.
"We will take the relevant legislative steps shortly," Bibilov told TASS. The agency reported that by his plan, South Ossetia would reunite with Russia's North Ossetia into a region called Ossetia-Alania.
Georgia's leaders have called speculations about a referendum "unacceptable," saying it would not have a legal basis given South Ossetia was an occupied territory.
Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.