South Ossetia wants to become part of Russia, local politicians say
The South Ossetian authorities have supported the statement by Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council Dmitry Medvedev, who said a few days ago that Abkhazia and South Ossetia could join Russia.
After the Georgian-Ossetian armed conflict in the early 1990s, a “Mixed Peacekeeping Force” – Georgian, South Ossetian and Russian battalions under the command of a Russian military officer – was deployed in the conflict zone. After the 5-day Georgian-Russian war in August 2008, then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries.
Georgia considers these territories as its own region, which was occupied by Russia. The UN and the international community have the same approach. After Russia, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru and Syria recognised the independence status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
On the eve of the 15th anniversary of Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia’s independence, Dmitry Medvedev said that the accession of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to Russia is possible if Georgia continues its efforts to integrate into NATO.
South Ossetian President Alan Gagloev met with Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow on 25 August, two days after the announcement of possible accession. At the meeting, Gagloev said that “South Ossetia is ready to develop integration processes with the Russian Federation up to joining the Russian Federation“.
According to local experts, at the moment South Ossetia is at a crossroads and is ready for several scenarios of its future. None of them has yet begun to materialise.
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Scenario 1: “Reunification of Ossetians within Russia”
Unlike Abkhazia, the idea of joining Russia is really popular in South Ossetia.
Alan Tadtayev, a member of parliament and chairman of the opposition United Ossetia party, said that “the majority of the South Ossetian population received this [Medvedev’s] statement with enthusiasm. There is no alternative to South Ossetia joining Russia and uniting the Ossetian people [Tadtayev is referring to unification with North Ossetia-Alania, a republic within the Russian Federation – JAMnews].
The overwhelming majority of the republic’s population are citizens of Russia – somewhere between 98-99 per cent. And they see their future as part of Russia and in a common space with Russia“.
At the same time Tadtayev is dissatisfied with the fact that the current leadership of South Ossetia is not taking any real steps for such reunification. He recalls that after winning the presidential election, Gagloev disrupted the referendum on joining Russia, scheduled by Bibilov for 17 July 2022:
“The dream of reunification could have been realised. The people of South Ossetia had their say in two referendums. But the elections were held with complete deception of the population“.
Option 2: “Joining the Union State with Russia”
In recent years, part of the South Ossetian bureaucratic apparatus has put forward another integration option – joining the Union State of Belarus and Russia. However, this option is still unrealistic because Belarus does not recognise South Ossetia’s sovereignty.
State Advisor to the President Vyacheslav Gobozov is sure that sooner or later this will happen. Gobozov is one of the opponents of reunification of the Ossetian people within Russia. It is not for the first time that he speaks with theses about plans to join the Union State.
On condition of anonymity one of the civil servants admitted to JAMnews that he supports Gobozov’s idea of the Union State “because it will allow South Ossetia to keep its state apparatus“.
This is the most common argument among opponents of integration with Russia. Some South Ossetian officials have time and again disrupted the process of joining the Russian Federation for fear of losing their posts and high salaries.
They support their position with arguments about the common customs space and trade and economic contacts with Belarus.
But, according to Tadtayev, it is much easier to join Russia than to wait for a hypothetical recognition by Minsk and then to join the Union State.
In any case, he says, “if the current authorities are hatching plans to join the Union State, it is necessary to ask the opinion of the residents. That is, we can’t do without a referendum“.
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Option 3: “Russia will return South Ossetia to Georgia”
Former Foreign Minister Dmitri Medoev says with indignation that against the backdrop of the continuing popularity of becoming part of Russia, opinions have been planted that a weakened Russia will allegedly return South Ossetia to Georgia, “using it as a bargaining chip in “mutual settlements“.
Both Tadtayev and Medoyev are confident that “Russia is not defeated in Ukraine.”
“Despite pressure from Western countries and sanctions against Moscow, South Ossetia does not intend to reconsider its allied and integration ties with Moscow” – Medoev said and emphasised:
“No one believes the statements of Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashili about Tbilisi’s desire to return “brothers – Abkhazians and South Ossetians” peacefully.“
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