What is going on in South Ossetia and how does it relate to the war between Ukraine and Russia?

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Here’s what you need to know about South Ossetia, its ambitions to become part of Russia, and how the conflict relates to the war in Ukraine.

South Ossetia is a small Russian-backed breakaway region within Georgia’s internationally recognized borders. Moscow recognized South Ossetia as an independent state, along with Abkhazia, also in Georgia, after the brief war between Georgia and Russia in 2008. Since then, it has provided the region with financial support, stationed troops on its territory, and Russian citizenship and other benefits for the about 55,000 inhabitants.

Georgia has de facto lost control of these regions. But not many countries, aside from a few Russian allies — such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Syria — and three small island nations in the Pacific, have recognized South Ossetia as an independent state.

Over the years, South Ossetia and Moscow have grown closer and have signed multiple cooperation treaties.

“Since 2008, when war broke out, Russia has become virtually the only power controlling and supporting South Ossetia, and the region has been cut off from Tbilisi, from mainland Georgia,” said Maia Otarashvili, research associate and deputy research director at the research institute. for foreign policy.

What has South Ossetia said about joining Russia?

Bibilov said on Thursday that South Ossetia will take legal action to join the Russian Federation “in the near future”, according to comments published by the United Russia party press service of Russia’s Tass news agency.

“I believe that unification with Russia is our strategic goal. This is our way and an aspiration of our people. We must continue on this path,” he said. “The corresponding legal action will be taken in the near future. The Republic of South Ossetia will become part of its historic motherland – Russia.”

South Ossetia has previously said it wants to join Russia but is being shut down by Moscow.

“I think there are a number of reasons for that,” Otarashvili said. “First, Moscow is already de facto in charge of South Ossetia and oversees all aspects of it. And two, an annexation… a major, formal annexation, would be yet another move Moscow would make that would be frowned upon by the West.”

This time, the Kremlin also rejected South Ossetia’s suggestion. “We have not taken any legal or other measures,” Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told reporters on Thursday, according to Reuters. “This concerns the choice of the South Ossetian people, which we respect.”

Georgia’s deputy foreign minister, David Zalkaliani, said on Thursday that “speculation of a referendum” in South Ossetia on the possibility of joining the Russian Federation “is unacceptable,” Tass said.

What does this have to do with Ukraine?

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought back painful memories for Georgians who lived through the 2008 war. Since the conflict in Ukraine began on February 24, the Georgian government has been careful not to provoke Russia.

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili said on February 25 that the country would not join its Western allies in imposing economic sanctions on Russia. Georgia is also said to have blocked volunteer fighters from traveling to Ukraine.

When Georgia’s president, Salome Zurabishvili, traveled to Brussels and Paris in early March to show his support for Ukraine, the country’s ruling party said her travel was banned and that it planned to sue her.

“The Georgians are very supportive of Ukraine. And many of them are now even fighting as volunteers in Ukraine, so the government and the people are extremely divergent across Ukraine,” Otarashvili said.

The current government in Georgia came to power in 2012 and is known for its “extreme reconciliation strategy with Russia,” Otarashvili added. “There has been a lot of openness between Russia and Georgia, and the current administration has worked very hard not to provoke Russia.”

On the other hand, the leader of South Ossetia has further sided with Russia, saying on Telegram on March 26 that the region was sending troops to fight on the Russian side to “help protect Russia,” Agence France-Presse reported.

Bibilov has supported Russian aggression in Ukraine.

“The Russian world today defends the interests of its supporters, those who oppose Nazism, who respect universal humanitarian values ​​and fundamental rights and norms shared by the entire international community,” he said on Thursday, Tass reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin initially tried to justify the invasion by saying his forces planned to “denazify” the country, a claim experts say is part of the Kremlin’s disinformation campaign surrounding the war.

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