A referendum result backing South Ossetia’s independence from Georgia will have surprised few, at home or abroad. It is not official yet but pro-Russian President Eduard Kokoity says the vast majority of voters have backed the motion. “I am sure that we together with you all will achieve our aim and live in a free, independent and united Ossetia,” he said. The vote is seen as illegal in the West but Russia says it should be respected.
South Ossetia broke away from Georgia after a 1991-92 war that killed hundreds and forced tens of thousands to flee. Georgia’s pro-western leadership has vowed to regain control of it and Abkhazia, another region with de facto independence. Most South Ossetians, ethnically different from Georgians, hold Russian passports and use the Russian rouble. Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi are at rock bottom, primarily because of tensions over the two regions. Russia cut transport links last month after a spying row.