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Occupied Tskhinvali Prepares for ‘Referendum’ on Unification with Russia

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Friday, April 8, 2022
On April 6, the initiative group of the occupied Tskhinvali region applied to the so-called Central Election Commission with a motion to hold a referendum reported to news agency Res.

According to the member of the so-called CEC, Igor Chochiev, the commission is starting to go through legal procedures.

“The CEC has received a petition for the registration of an initiative group seeking a referendum on the unification of South Ossetia into the Russian Federation. A commission meeting will be held and the issue of registration will be resolved. The initiative group includes 4 presidents: incumbent Anatoly Bibilov and former presidents Ludwig Chibirov, Eduard Kokoity, and Leonid Tibilov. Besides them, there are 26 other people from political and public groups,” Chochiev said.

The question to be asked at the referendum by the initiative group is: “Are you in favor of the unification of the Republic of South Ossetia with the Russian Federation?”

According to the so-called constitutional law of the de facto republic, within 15 days after receiving the application, the so-called CEC decides on the registration of the initiative group and issues a registration certificate. In case of refusal to register, the CEC will inform the initiative group of the reasoned decision.

Refusal to register can be appealed in the so-called Supreme Court. The only reason for refusing to register is a violation of the Articles of the so-called Constitution and the Law on Referendum by the initiative group. From the moment of receiving the registration certificate, the initiative group has the right to voluntarily and independently start collecting signatures in support of the referendum within 3 months.

After collecting the signatures, the CEC checks all the documents within 15 days and sends the report to the de facto president. The de facto President shall, within 10 days of receipt of the documents, send the relevant request to the Supreme Court of the de facto Republic.

The so-called Supreme Court reviews compliance with the requirements of the Constitution and sends a decision to the ‘president’ within 14 days, which is subject to immediate publication. In case of a positive decision of the de facto Supreme Court, the so-called president is obliged to set a date for the referendum within 10 days. In case of a negative decision of the so-called Supreme Court, all procedures are terminated.

On March 30, the ‘president’ of the de facto republic of South Ossetia, Anatoly Bibilov, said that legal steps would be taken soon to make ‘South Ossetia’ part of Russia. According to him, unification with Russia is a strategic goal of the republic.

Currently, the so-called president of the occupied Tskhinvali region is conducting a pre-election campaign. ‘Elections’ are scheduled for April 10. The current campaign is no different from the campaign of 5 years ago. Even then, Bibilov's main message was the unification of ‘South and North Ossetia into one republic within the Russian Federation’.

Unlike occupied Abkhazia, the occupied Tskhinvali region has a small number of civil activists who do not support unification with Russia. Their idea is to create the independent Republic of Ossetia.

In August 2008, after the Russian army invaded Georgia and occupied the region, the Kremlin recognized the so-called de facto state independence of South Ossetia on August 26. After the recognition, the 4th occupation military base was deployed in the occupied region, where, in addition to the troops brought from Russia, the personnel of the local army was also deployed. Now part of this base, including the youth of Tskhinvali, is fighting against Ukraine on the Russian side.

In August 2008, the armed forces of Russia and the de facto republic burned and destroyed Georgian villages in the Liakhvi gorge, leaving up to 30,000 Georgian citizens displaced. Since then, the de facto government has repeatedly asked the Kremlin to join, although Russia has so far refrained from annexing the occupied territories.