The head of Georgia’s separatist region of South Ossetia announced on Friday that a referendum would be held in July on joining Russia.
Russia has exercised effective control over the region since it fought a brief war with Georgia in 2008. Russia and a handful of other countries recognize South Ossetia as an independent state, but most of the world still considers part of Georgia.
“We did it!” South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov wrote on Telegram on Friday, announcing that he had signed a decree setting the referendum for July 17.
“In legalese, we have fulfilled another important legal requirement,” he said. “And in normal parlance, we’ve taken a life-changing step – we’re going home, we’re going to Russia.”
About a month after the start of the war between Russia and Ukraine, Bibilov said that South Ossetia would take the necessary legal steps to join Russia.
The referendum roughly follows the Crimean model. After Russia seized the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, a referendum was held on joining Russia and 97% reportedly voted in favour. The referendum took place while Crimea was under the control of Russian troops and the result was not recognized by most countries. Russia then annexes Crimea.