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Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia sets vote to join Russia

TBILISI, GEORGIA (AP) – The leader of the breakaway Georgian 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 fighting a brief war with Georgia in 2008.

Russia and a handful of countries recognise South Ossetia as an independent state, but most of the world still considers it a part of Georgia. “We did it!” South Ossetian leader Anatoly Bibilov wrote on Friday on Telegram, announcing that he signed a decree setting the referendum for July 17.

“In legalese, we fulfilled yet another important legal requirement,” he said. “And in normal language, we took a life-changing step – we are going home, we are going to Russia.”

About a month into Russia’s war with Ukraine, Bibilov said South Ossetia would take the legal steps necessary to join Russia.