Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia has voted overwhelmingly in favour of independence in a referendum which has no international recognition. However authorities are hailing the result as a first step towards eventual union with Russia. Officially, Moscow does not recognise the outcome either, but it says it should be respected.
Sentiments shared by self-declared President Eduard Kokoity who also won re-election in a separate poll yesterday. “South Ossetia’s independence must continue he said – Georgia should listen to the wishes of the people of South Ossetia,” he said.
However, there is little sign that Georgia is willing to change its stance. While local people celebrated the “yes” vote across the capital, Tskhinvali, the Georgian prime minister denounced the referendum saying it would only serve to increase tensions. Zurab Nogaideli also accused Russia of preparing to go to war over the issue. Meanwhile, Dimitri Sanakoev came out victorious in the alternative presidential elections held in towns populated by ethnic Georgians in the breakaway region.