The breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia intends to become part of Russia, news agencies reported today.
South Ossetia’s leader Eduard Kokoity’s comments – to a group of Western foreign policy experts – are the latest confirmation of the small region’s long-standing efforts to move permanently out of Georgian government control.
“Yes, certainly, we will become part of Russia,” Mr Kokoity said during the meeting in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi. “And we are not going to make some independent Ossetia.”
Russia recognised South Ossetia as an independent nation, along with another separatist region, Abkhazia, after last month’s Russian-Georgian war over the regions.
Abkhazia’s leader, Sergei Bagapsh, told the same group today that his region continued to insist on independence, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.
Though there has been no official Russian comment on South Ossetia’s status, Moscow is likely to agree to annex South Ossetia and unite its residents with North Ossetia.
That would further infuriate the Georgians, who are determined to bring both South Ossetia and Abkhazia under government control.
War broke after Georgian forces launched an offensive on August 7 to retake South Ossetia. Russian forces then defeated Georgia’s military and drove deep into Georgia.
Later an Interfax report quoted Mr Kokoity as reversing his position.
“I have probably been misunderstood,” he said. “We are not going to relinquish our independence.”
His earlier statement could have been seen to undermine the position of the Kremlin, which said it sent in its military to defend the region’s independence.