The breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia votes today in an independence referendum, and to elect a new President. Neither of the votes is recognised by the international community, and neither is the self-proclaimed country, carved out of Georgia in a 1992 civil war.
“The republic of South Ossetia is already independent. What we want now is to be recognised by the international community. Once the international community recognises our independence we will be free people and we will be protected from the threats and hostility of Georgia”, said one interviewed young man.
Most people here have both South Ossetian and Russian passports. Without an economic drip-feed from Moscow, the aspiring state would collapse. Many would like to join North Ossetia, part of the Russian Federation. The referendum takes place in an extremely tense atmosphere of bad relations between Georgia and Russia. Georgia’s Prime Minister, Zurab Noghaideli, told EuroNews that only a peaceful solution would end the conflict:
“The Russians are portraying us recently as if we want to start the war. Their recent rhetoric and actions lead us to draw the conclusion that they are basically getting prepared for the war. This is why we need to get this problem addressed and war needs to be avoided definitely”. Georgia’s immediate priority is the demilitarisation of the frontier region, which has been patrolled by a peacekeeping force for the last 14 years including Russian, North and South Ossetian, and Georgian troops.