'Unacceptable': Georgia condemns proposed separatist referendum on joining Russia

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By Euronews
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Anatoly Bibilov, the leader of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia (R) meet in 2018.
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Anatoly Bibilov, the leader of Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia (R) meet in 2018.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool

Georgia has said that proposals for a breakaway southern region to join Russia are "unacceptable" and "illegitimate".

Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani has condemned discussions about holding a referendum in South Ossetia, which was at the centre of the twelve-day Russo-Georgian war in 2008.

Anatoli Bibilov, the leader of the separatist region, has indicated that he wanted to organise a referendum on becoming part of Russia.

"It is unacceptable to talk about a referendum when this territory is occupied by Russia," Zalkaliani said on Thursday.

Beka Davituliani, an MP from the ruling Georgian Dream party, said South Ossetia's plans amounted to a provocation.

Bibilov had suggested that a referendum could take place after the next presidential election in the region on April 10.

"I believe that joining with Russia is our strategic goal. Our path. Our people's longing," he stated.

Russia recognised the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia after the 2008 war but Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia had taken no "legal measures" on accession.

"However, we are talking about the people of South Ossetia expressing their opinion, and we treat it with respect," Peskov said on Thursday.

The planned referendum was announced one month after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow has also recognised the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, two pro-Russian separatist territories in Ukraine's Donbas region whose leaders want to become part of Russia.

South Ossetian authorities say they have soldiers men to fight alongside the Russians in Ukraine.

Additional sources • AFP, EFE