Georgia says it is “unacceptable” for the breakaway region to vote to join Russia

A border fence and a sign at the de-facto border of Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia region near Dvani, Georgia, June 4, 2018. Photo taken on June 4, 2018. REUTERS/David Medzinarichvili

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March 31 (Reuters) – Georgia said on Thursday that plans for the Russian-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia to hold a referendum on joining Russia were unacceptable, while the Kremlin stressed that no action was being taken to make it happen.

Moscow recognized the independence of the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after going to war with Georgia in 2008. It deployed thousands of soldiers in both regions and provided them with extensive financial support.

Georgian Foreign Minister David Zelkaliani was quoted by TASS news agency as saying: “Of course talk of holding any kind of referendum (in South Ossetia) is not acceptable…when these territories in Georgia are occupied.”

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Interfax news agency reported that Pekka Davitoliani, a lawmaker from the ruling Georgian Dream party, said South Ossetia’s plans amounted to a provocation.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters he could not give an opinion on South Ossetia’s plans.

“No legal or other action has been taken in this regard,” he said. “But at the same time we respectfully express the opinion of the people of South Ossetia,” he added.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington, which has rejected what it describes as Russia’s occupation of parts of Georgia since 2008, will not recognize the results of any attempt “by Russia or its proxies” to divide Georgia.

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“Neither the de-facto authorities nor the Russian government have the right to make decisions about the future of South Ossetia, which is part of Georgia,” Price told reporters at a press conference, analogous to Russia’s 2014 annexation and recognition of Crimea from Ukraine. of the separatist regions of eastern Ukraine before its invasion on February 24.

Georgia’s other breakaway region, Abkhazia on the Black Sea coast, said it supports South Ossetia’s aspirations but does not share its goal of joining Russia.

Moscow has used diplomatic recognition as a tool to maintain an armed presence in the breakaway regions of the former Soviet Union that it considers part of its sphere of influence.

In Ukraine, long-standing Russian support for armed separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk gave it a platform for invasion. Moscow describes its military action in Ukraine as a “special operation” and the West denounces it as an unjustified war.

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Reporting by Reuters. Editing by Mark Trevelyan and Grant McCall

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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