The new de facto president of the breakaway region abandons his predecessor’s plan to hold the vote on July 17.
The leader of Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia region has canceled plans to hold a referendum on joining Russia that his predecessor had scheduled for 17 July.
South Ossetia was in the center The Russian-Georgian War of 2008 The Kremlin later recognized the region as an independent state and established military bases there.
In a decree issued on Monday, the de facto head of the Moscow-controlled enclave, Alan Gaglev, raised “uncertainty about the legal consequences of the issue put to the referendum.”
The decree also stressed that “the inadmissibility of a unilateral decision to hold a referendum on issues affecting the legitimate rights and interests of the Russian Federation.”
Gaglov “ordered to hold consultations without delay with the Russian side on a whole range of issues related to further integration of South Ossetia and the Russian Federation.”
On May 13, Gagalov’s predecessor, Anatoly Bibilov, signed a decree on holding the referendum, indicating the region’s “historic aspiration” to join Russia, his office said at the time.
Bibilov lost his re-election bid earlier this month. Russia expressed the hope that Gaglov would maintain the “continuity” of relations with Moscow.
Tbilisi has previously denounced South Ossetia’s plans to hold a referendum on joining Russia as “unacceptable”.
South Ossetia, with a population of only 50,000, broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s in a bloody civil war.
In August 2008, Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of Georgia, which was fighting pro-Russian militias in South Ossetia, after shelling Georgian villages.
The fighting ended five days later with a ceasefire brokered by the European Union, but it killed more than 700 people and displaced tens of thousands of Georgians.
The aftermath of the war saw the Kremlin recognize the independence of South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, which has since remained under Russian military control.
The conflict marks the height of tensions with the Kremlin over the staunchly pro-Western Tbilisi bid to join the European Union and NATO.
In March, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Karim Khan, applied for arrest warrants for three current and former South Ossetian officials in connection with war crimes committed against ethnic Georgians.
The alleged crimes included torture, inhuman treatment, unlawful detention, outrages upon personal dignity, the taking of hostages, and the unlawful transportation of persons.
Last year, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia was responsible for human rights violations in the aftermath of the war.
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